Frank Ocean Is Not Retiring From Music

Norah Jones, Kendrick Lamar top his favorite 2012 albums

Frank Ocean and John Mayer on 'Saturday Night Live'
Frank Ocean sings on 'Saturday Night Live' with John Mayer / Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

So far the big news around the blogosphere from the Guardian's recent interview with notoriously interview-averse Frank Ocean has been that he said he "might not make another album. I might just write a novel next."

Granted, considering channel ORANGE was SPIN's No. 1 Album of the Year, we're a bit biased — of course we'd love to hear a follow-up when it's ready — but this comment isn't particularly surprising coming from Ocean. For one thing, he recently wrote online that he wants to write a novel. Then again, he also said he wants to start a car club and had wanted to start an arcade, but the idea was "morphing." Besides, anything might happen, and Ocean left himself an out later in the interview, saying. "I don't intend to stop making music."

What might be more surprising to Ocean's growing cult, though it shouldn't be given his ongoing resistance to putting labels on things, is his answer when asked which albums he's been feeling in 2012. "I thought Norah Jones made a really good record," he said. "I thought Kendrick Lamar made a cool record. I thought John Mayer made a really good record." All of these references make sense if you think about Ocean in the terms SPIN's Julianne Escobedo Shepherd used — as ranking among "contemporary storytellers with something singular to say" — but, well, only Lamar wound up on our year-end list (right behind Ocean at No. 2). And though Jones' Danger Mouse-assisted ...Little Broken Hearts and Mayer's Born and Raised each earned favorable SPIN reviews, neither come up as comparisons for Ocean's music so often as, say, fellow nominally "R&B" artists like Miguel and the Weeknd.

Speaking of storytelling, that's how the possibility that Ocean might not make another album came up in the first place. "The storytelling part of it is the most interesting and challenging part of the whole process for me," he said. "Some people focus more on sonics. Some people focus more on story. I focus on both sonics and story, but music sometimes, just music itself, can turn into more of a math problem. I guess everything in life is a math problem, but it can be more about an empirical route to getting the symmetry that you want, and this vibe, sonically. But storytelling's a different thing."

Elsewhere in the interview, Ocean also offered some sharp and illuminating observations about film. "Whenever I think about movies, I always look at that art process as having the best of a lot of worlds," he told the Guardian. "Because if you watch a great film, you have a musical element to it, not just on the scoring, but in the way that the shorts are edited — that has music and rhythm and time." He went on to praise the color schemes in Wes Anderson movies.

Finally, in discussing favorite new records, Ocean brought up a new record he'd like to have exist. "I think Fleetwood Mac needs to make a new album," he said. Again, the vivid lyrics and expensive L.A. sound of the Buckingham/Nicks-era Mac isn't R&B, but it's an obvious stylistic fit for the guy who wrote "Super Rich Kids" and "Sweet Life." Told that key member Christine McVie reportedly would not be returning for the band's planned 2013 reunion tour, however, Ocean rethought the idea — and confirmed once and for all he's not quitting music. "No," he said. "I'm not on any retirement kick."

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