Thinking About You, Frank Ocean
I’ve proclaimed my appreciation (okay, love) for Frank Ocean before on this site, but this weekend I watched the official Youtube footage of his Cochella performance, and this song hit me way harder than I expected it to. I downloaded this track when it surfaced at the end of last year, but until I saw him perform it live I never fully appreciated its genius. “Thinking About You” is a return to late ’80s and ’90s pop conventions, reviving a style that has attracted significant publicity in the past few months with the death of Whitney Houston, who basically perfected the art of the pop ballad. This art has largely been lost over the past decade, as hip-hop and pop have gradually been stirred together, creating Flo Rida and Ke$ha. While this song certainly contains elements of hip-hop (insert obligatory OFWGKTA reference here), Ocean’s lyrics and performance maintain a feeling of gravitas absent from most of today’s shallow pop and R&B.
With Frank working as a songwriter for other artists as well as his own projects, this version is actually a demo that he recorded to show the eventual recipient of this song, Bridget Kelly, the nuances of the vocal melody. Being a demo, Ocean’s vocal track was never intended to be heard by the public, which would have been a shame because its amazing. I have no qualms with the audio quality, and his dejected, sometimes lethargic delivery has so much more emotion and sentiment than the comparatively sterile and processed-sounding final version. Even though the gut-wrenching chorus seems obviously intended for a female vocalist, Ocean’s falsetto somehow fits perfectly, straining just enough to give it an extra punch of believable emotion but not so much that it sounds unpleasant. He also cruises the deadpan parts of the verses at just the right speed and level of enthusiasm. That being said, I’d love to hear Mariah Carey cover this, she would absolutely tear it apart. The song’s lyrics hover right on the edge of universal appeal and specificity, describing situations that easily could have happened to Frank personally while staying relatable for all listeners who have ever tried to balance short and long-term happiness. In almost every way, this song is vintage pop gold. Give it a listen, and if you’re curious check out Bridget Kelly’s final version here.
I’ve been thinking about you, do you think about me still?
Or do you not think so far ahead, ’cause I been thinking about forever