Frank Ocean lives in the quiet spaces. The ever-elusive singer-songwriter built his early career as a ghostwriter — the most secretive of all music occupations — and has successfully maintained that dense air, fog really, of mystery around him, despite a career that has grown to involve worldwide adulation, critical acclaim and two Grammys (not including the intentionally Grammy-excluded Blonde). And while sometimes his signature enigmatic persona means an incredibly frustrating nearly five-year-long music drought, sometimes it also simply means secretive releases.
On Wednesday night, Ocean did just that, quietly dropping a cover of “Moon River,” a song Audrey Hepburn originally sang in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, on his Tumblr page. Ocean’s penchant for the blogging site, which is widely used by teenagers making mood boards, has led him to release a handful of non-album cuts without traditional promotion, dropping the gems cryptically only for those paying close enough attention. In 2018, nearly everything Ocean does gets picked up by a blog, but we’ve still taken the liberty to go back to highlight five of the most notable Frank Ocean Tumblr deep cuts you may have missed or forgotten.
In 2011, Ocean dropped Nostalgia, Ultra, his debut mixtape as a singer-songwriter. But it wasn’t until the following year, when he released his first album Channel Orange that he truly blew up. Along with the entire nation, director Quentin Tarantino became enthralled with the singer and asked him to pen a song for the Django Unchained soundtrack. What came of it was “Wiseman,” a wildly beautiful song about family, reincarnation and strength. The song never made the final cut in Django, but when Ocean posted it to his Tumblr after the movie’s release, he succinctly said, “django was ill without it.”
“Blue Whale,” 2012
Anytime Frank raps it’s an event. On “Blue Whale,” it’s breezy and ?braggadocious with noteworthy lines like, “If I ever have a daughter, wonder what I call her, nine months after I fucked on the beach, I guess I call her Karma.” However, it’s the ending that makes it a personal favorite, as Ocean nonchalantly raps a stunning and timely reminder: “This life goes on dawg, that’s one thing about…life goes on pimpin’, the wise don’t doubt it.”
2014 was a dark age for Ocean fans. It had been two years since Channel Orange‘s release, and it would be another two or so years until he would release the follow-up. Yet in the middle of it all came “Memrise.” In its entirety, the song is only two minutes long, yet it somehow has time to encapsulate seemingly every aspect of love, from the incredibly sultry moments to the hauntingly beautiful romantic side. it also previewed some of the more experimental far-away sounds that were to come on Endless, the visual side to 2016’s Blonde.
“You Are Luhh,” 2015
On Aaliyah’s birthday in 2015, Frank did what few other artists are capable of doing: He covered an Aaliyah song and did it justice. In his own angelic voice, he re-imagined the ’94 ballad “At Your Best, You Are Love” for the digital age, aptly renaming it “You Are Luhh.” It’s hypnotic and enchanting and showcases Ocean’s insane pipes.
OK, so technically this one is a bluff as far as the Tumblr aspect. “Provider” actually premiered on Ocean’s eclectic Beats 1 radio show “blonded RADIO” this August, but it still seems appropriate, as the show has become Tumblr’s unofficial replacement since its inception last February. Ocean has quietly tucked tracks he’s produced, sung and wrote in the middle of his shows, including this summer’s “Provider.” And the song definitely bumps. It includes nods to all of Frank’s favorite things: Goku, natural blondes and Stanley Kubrick. And it also features Ocean’s incredible knack for bridges, gapping three seemingly unrelated beats into one smooth four-minute entry.