As you can probably tell from my website, there are very few times when I’m actually completely at a loss for words. There haven’t been many artists in the past 10 years to illicit such a reaction from me, especially from a genre that I’ve always respected and loved, R&B. However, I’d been hearing a great deal of noise about a certain young man named Frank Ocean, an artist who’s creating music that’s not only innovative, but completely unheard of in mainstream music after the 90s.
Very little is known about Frank Ocean, really. There was a big to-do about his sexuality and some of his lyrics can be, at times, suggestive. However, before all that noise, there was one very real truth — Frank Ocean is one of the most exciting things to come to music for a very long time.
Before we knew him as one of the most impressive talents to come into the scene, he was known as Christopher Breaux, an aspiring songwriter with a knack for the poetic and a great sense of the potently beautiful. Being a child of New Orleans, it’s no surprise that he grew up around jazz, melding that sense of timing and eccentricity into the entropy that makes up his own sound. He continued to cultivate his sound at the University of New Orleans, where he lived until the unfathomable tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina swept through his hometown and uprooted his life.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Ocean was forced to find new means of continuing to create the music that saw him become one of most talked about artists of the last five years. Ocean’s understanding of music is alarmingly advanced for someone as young as he (born 28 October 1987). He manages to meld not only the precision of classical jazz, but the smoothness of R&B with the awkward gait of something similar to pixelated stereophonics.
Can you accurately pinpoint the exact moment when everything you knew about life was shifted dramatically to the left? For me, it was the moment I heard the elegant chaos that was Jeff Buckley’s voice. Sincerely, the moment I heard the bend and twine of his lullaby over a syrupy love song called “Everybody Here Wants You”, I was no more good.
There’s so much to say about this man, so much to love and appreciate of his grandeur that words alone are sure to almost cheapen his exceptional talent. However, I’ll try my best to leave anything erroneous — meaning anything that’s not complete and utter adoration — away from this piece.
I, like so many, came to Buckley’s surreal magic after his death, ten years afterwards to be exact. I was all a quiver with the soul mastery of Lewis Taylor . It was on his second album I heard the aforementioned song and thought, “Who exactly writes this stuff?” In my reverie over Taylor, I, of course, assumed that he was the penman of such unparalleled love. However, it would be an outing with some friends that allowed me the opportunity to hear the original artist behind the sugar and spice of “Everybody.”
When I heard the gritty pop of Buckley’s voice, I think my universe was tilted somewhere between off-kilter and spread-eagle. I had to know who he was. My first bit of research revealed another Buckley, one of equal beauty and vocal depth. From there, I was hit with a pain that I didn’t know existed in me — loss of someone that I’d never have the chance to know personally. It may seem a queer thing, being infatuated with someone whom you’ve never and will never meet. But that voice! That uncompromising artistry! How could it be taken from me before I even got the chance to taste it, fully absorb its scent and breadth?
Have you ever had those moments right before you wake up when the mind is still jogging to keep up with the rest of the body? That detached moment in time before waking that suspends your reality and keeps your senses hyperaware, poised for any sort of stimulation? That’s exactly the physical and mental reverie that Van Hunt’s music throws me in.
Though I hate admitting when I come late to something, it wasn’t until four years ago that I discovered the sensual ease of Van Hunt, a musician that is so in tune with his intimate self that it’s almost astonishing. He’s managed to create music that’s both enigmatic yet so full of the same material that builds the sexual innateness in each and every one of us. He’s more than just an artist; he’s a remedy for the emotional apathy that wraps humanity in a gauzy and tenuous barrier from what’s so incredibly stitched in each and every one of us.