I’ve never actually watched paint dry, but right now I’m watching and listening to a man saw wood in an hangar-sized workroom and it’s roughly the same thing. There he goes, tilting his head down with air traffic controller concentration. Now he’s doing it again. This is what I get for wanting a shared experience in the surreal era of the "expected surprise" album.
Dropping a surprise album at this point is almost passé. Instead, the latest trend is either getting back to basics with a lead single and a release date like it was any year before 2007, or offering cryptic clues and endless teasing. Of those practitioners of this second style, Frank Ocean is easily the most crypt-y. He will stamp a string of missed release dates on a library card with some future ones etched out, just to leave starving fans in a perpetual state of suspense.
Early this morning, Ocean launched a live stream whose web addresses conforms to the purported title of his new album, Boys Don’t Cry. That must mean the new Frank album, the follow up to the epochal Channel Orange, is coming eminently! Probably! Right? Right? There’s no way it’s just a vaguely Shia LaBeouf-esque social experiment to keep us waiting to be riveted. And waiting. And waiting. And watching a man cut wood for literal hours. Occasionally, bits of broken synthesizer or orchestral swells will pipe in, as if to announce the start of an album stream, and then it goes away just as quickly. Perhaps it's our own eagerness for this music to be that album that’s responsible for Frank Ocean wanting to tease us like this—the way when a kitten really goes for that string, you just want to keep it out of his paws a little longer.
And all of this watching on our part is for the prospect that we might be among the first hundreds of thousands of supernaturally patient fans to hear new music that we will soon be readily able to access at any time. It hardly seems worth it. This is a long way to go for the communal experience of parsing something new together. That moment when we all received the gift of new Beyoncé, or watched the Super Bowl, or that time earlier this year when both of those things happened at the same time. It’s been hours; I’m throwing in the towel. Wake me when the new Frank Ocean is officially out—which is something they may end up printing on my tombstone.
Here is a list of things to keep open on a tab that may be more entertaining than this stream: