HERE'S TO FRANK OCEAN'S "CHANEL"

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Frank Ocean has always found comfort in uncertainty, in the grey spaceswhere opposing forces blur and rob us of easy answers. He has a rare gift for connecting the emotional and experiential dots, for understanding and empathizing. On “Chanel,” his new surprise release, Ocean showcases this talent in a song that is a potent mix of the existential and the material. Over a slow, shuffling piano, he peels back the layers of his hyperactive mind, cracking open insights on everything from sexual fluidity (“My guy pretty like a girl/And he got fight stories to tell”) to the hazards of lean abuse, using a 21 Savage meme (“With a cup in a cup, Actavis/That’s a double edge, issa knife”).

Some of his phrases stand alone, revealing their own little worlds, like the tourist bubble inside the Tokyo ward Shibuya or a fervent online community of fans; others uncoil, threading more elaborate stories that share morsels about his celebrity and his newfound independence. The production is understated, nearly fading away in the distance, but Ocean's voice is a commanding presence that swells and fills the expanse. He brags in the same breath about having new money and backpacks full of unreleased collabs; for him, both are currency in the new space he’s navigating as a self-governing superstar and R&B magnate.