Frank Ocean hits target with 'Chanel'

Elusive artist’s solo return emphasizes contrast, defining duality


Frank Ocean's single "Chanel" blends profound themes with a soothing melody.

Courtesy Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean premiered the single “Chanel” on his monthly Beats 1 radio show March 10. The release is his first solo appearance since “Blonde” last August, which came as a surprise to fans after the four-year absence following his debut album in 2012.

On “Chanel,” Ocean once again toys with some of his favorite themes — duality and apparent contrast — both in lyrical and musical content. The focus of these ideas is evident throughout, as Ocean begins the song singing, “My guy pretty like a girl.” The track’s hook also cleverly illustrates this obsession with conflicting sides, “See on both sides like Chanel.” The lyrics touch on fame, wealth and material infatuation as Ocean continues to gain success and confidence as an artist. He boasts, “Whole team diamonds is real / Showed ‘em how to shine by they-selves,” toward the end of the track.

Ocean scatters his unique flow all over “Chanel,” repeatedly switching from singing to rapping and back again. His growing skills as a rapper are evident on this track, as it features some of his best reference-filled lyrical play — “Revenge in the air make my lungs sick / Chopper in the sky like a gun trick / Clips on clips like Mike.”

Musically, “Chanel” cannot be pinned down. As in many of his works, Ocean weaves together a number of melodies, yet always returns to the warm, familiar harmony of the song’s hook. The silky instrumental was produced by Swedish duo Jarami and mixed by Mike Dean, whose mark is left in the track’s slightly distorted sound and gritty drums.

As always, Ocean has “two versions,” and a second rendition of the track — featuring an additional verse from A$AP Rocky — premiered alongside the original release. Rocky continues Ocean’s flow and the song’s themes — from fashion to self-contradiction. The rapper speaks on his relationship with former fiancé Chanel Iman with lines like, “Was such a good guy to Chanel / Til’ she caught me sleeping with Charel.” Rocky leaves an overall positive impression, as his singing voice matches Ocean’s to close the remixed track.

Ocean has changed his style recently, but it’s possible he’ll go M.I.A. again — he’s done it before — or continue releasing new music. With such an unpredictable artist, it’s impossible to say. But if “Chanel” is any indicator, Ocean is just getting into his stride.

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