While endless studies have been conducted on the psyche of the creative, many claims dance around the general consensus that a large majority of creative people are both uniquely introverted and extroverted. While this is not always the case, a major key lies in discovering and honoring the environment that best suits an individual’s creative process. When considering a reputedly exclusive artist like Frank Ocean, an extrovert-leaning person may be confused, infuriated or both regarding how he unfolded his latest work. I know I was.
What an extrovert may consider a sloppy roll-out, an introvert may consider to be an absolute work of art and find beauty or value in the process leading up to the product. As we all know, Frank Ocean is someone who recently fell victim to at-times unforgivably harsh criticism regarding how he went about releasing his latest album. It got so bad in social media circles that his loyal supporters created a call to action to leave the artist alone. Fans felt entitled to his album and when an optimistic July came and went, some wondered if this all turned into a cruel joke gone-too-far and his album would remain mysteriously shelved forever. Luckily, that was not the case, but one still has to wonder if what we saw with Frank Ocean is on its way towards becoming the norm as the traditional way to release music doesn’t seem to cut it these days. And if it is, is that really so bad? Are we so entitled as consumers that we need every artist to follow the same formula because that’s what works for us?
When examining the release process of artists such as Kanye West, Beyoncé and Rihanna, the pattern is very similar. Frank Ocean now falls into this as well, perhaps at a new extreme. These artists can, arguably, get away with whatever they want in regards to their art and how they unveil their art because their fanbases will always follow. If West wants to sell out Madison Square Garden to play unfinished and unmastered tracks off of an iPod, so be it. If Beyoncé wants to break the Internet overnight, so it will be. If Rihanna wants to tease her new album in a series of videos that unlock literal and figurative doors though her “ANTI diaRY,” that’s cool too (except of course when TIDAL gets in the way).
Each one of these artists experienced unnecessary pressure from their inpatient fans to deliver a project so good the botched, annoying or never-ending or nonexistent promotional campaigns would be worth it. Frank Ocean experienced that pressure for four years at a unrelenting level, and now people are joking that given the amount of creative work he recently shared, he’s about to disappear for the next five years. To say that’s unfair is an understatement.
As we’ve seen several times this year, sometimes the roll-out of an album overshadows the album itself. How messed up is that?! Are we really going to remember that one time Frank Ocean took his sweet time to deliver his art over the fact that he dropped two albums, two visuals and a magazine within 48 hours for us to consume and digest just as quickly? I certainly hope not.
By loose definition, introversion enables people to feel energized by the time they spend alone and extroversion creates an opportunity for people to feel energized by being in the company of others. Frank Ocean definitely lies in the former. While no creative person wants to be categorized or confined by a label, Ocean being labeled an introvert may inspire more good than harm. Introverts, by nature, are sensitive. Not saying that extroverts aren’t, but an introvert-leaning person may be hesitant to share their self-expressive work because of that sensitivity and for a fear of being misunderstood or criticized. Extroverts also grossly outnumber introverts, so if you were outraged at Frank Ocean, you weren’t the only one by any means. In fact, you were in the majority. Perhaps introverts can relate more to Frank Ocean in general, and understanding why that makes sense will help bring his extroverted supporters one step closer to figuring out his intentions in the first place, while also allowing for others to let up on criticizing him for his conscious decisions to release his album on his own terms.
“Now keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my s**t,” Erykah Badu once famously said. (Of course, she said it best.) Frank Ocean probably relates heavy enough to that sentiment to retweet it, fav it and print out the Tumblr-ready quote as a reminder. There’s no way it’s an easy emotional task to have put yourself into your work for years and have millions of people hounding you for it for just as long. When he finally made his way up the staircase he built during his curious live video stream, it was impossible not to celebrate the view along with him. It’s a perfect metaphor. The view is always worth the climb, and Ocean’s new music is a testament to that. It’s almost too good.
Frank Ocean is the rare type of artist that lives his art. This is as evident in his public persona as it is in his personal blog posts. While his disregard for following a schedule had the most impatient of fans frustrated, to be frustrated with him is to do him an extreme disservice. Considering how much goes into a project, Ocean really didn’t make us wait too long. He doesn’t owe us anything. In a way, Frank Ocean gave us more while giving us less. Every look into his creative process revealed more about him than a quote in a traditional interview ever could. Considering his album is currently #1, it’s without a doubt that this crazy ride Ocean brought us on was more than worth the at-times infuriating and confusing wait.
Through all of this, Frank Ocean is helping to pave a new way for creative introverts to thrive. Instead of criticizing the process, fans are being subject to learning how to celebrate the process. And for an artist like Ocean, as well as for those who relate heavily to him as an artist, that really is everything.