I have mixed feelings about this quote from Miguel in Vibe Magazine that I discovered today:
“I don’t know if the word is eclipsed. [Long pause] That’s a really tough question to answer, man. In all reality, Frank Ocean took a big chance the way that artists are supposed to. I mean, even his album doesn’t sound like mine or anyone else’s. So sonically and how he writes and what he’s writing about and how he chooses to express himself vocally, all his choices are very unique, and I appreciate that about him. Not only did his announcement overshadow my music, but it overshadowed his as well. The general public was in awe and championing him for being brave enough to make that announcement publicly. I congratulate him for his successes. I would love to hear more of his music. He’s one of those artists that’s being himself and pushing boundaries. I gotta celebrate that.”
I think this was a poor choice of words on Miguel’s part more than anything else. That’s what I hope, anyways. Nonetheless, saying “his announcement overshadow[ed] my music” reads as a thinly veiled accusation of a publicity stunt. There’s a narrative about how Frank chose to “come out” (come out as… not straight? because he certainly does not identify as either gay or bisexual), right before his album dropped to gain publicity. But revealing that you are not heterosexual is not really an act that is rewarded enough to be a publicity stunt — in fact, a lot of people pay a heavy price for that. The shift towards acceptance of gay artists was not firmly established in Franks genre (and to be honest, I don’t think it’s firmly established in any mainstream genre), r&b, which is one that heavily (and graphically) celebrates and depicts heterosexual relationships. His album didn’t perform so well because he revealed that he’s loved a man in the past, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge (as Miguel did, although it was ill-advised), that Frank’s sexuality is an uncomfortable point of conversation.
It’s important because he serves as an example of the what the rest of us could be– comfortable with who we are and feeling confident without labels. At the same time, the stress on sexuality can detract from the person and the content, as I’ve talked about in my post about Le1f. There’s a line somewhere between example and novelty, and when Frank becomes the beacon of our acceptance of non-heterosexual relationships, what, exactly, does that mean for other artists of the same caliber? What does that mean for Frank?