WVAU’s #7 SOTY: Lens by Frank Ocean

WVAU's #7 SOTY: Lens by Frank Ocean

Sean McCarthy

Photo by Soundcloud

There may be no more secretive figure in popular music then Frank Ocean. After bursting onto the scene in 2012 with Channel Orange he went into near exile for the next four years, appearing only to feature on a few Kanye West and Odd Future songs. He reappeared in 2016 with the release of Blonde, a striking departure from the sound of his previous work that was hailed by many as an instant classic. Following the release of Blonde many feared that he would again disappear, but instead he continued releasing music in 2017 through his Beats 1 radio show Blonded Radio. The third of these singles is “Lens‰Û, an autotune drenched track filled with cryptic lyrics about failed romances and promiscuity.

Sonically “Lens‰” is different from the preceding two singles, “Chanel‰” and “Biking‰Û. While the those two tracks had a more organic sound and Hip-Hop style percussion, “Biking‰” even features verses from Jay-Z and Tyler, The Creator. “Lens‰” instead turns toward a more sparse, electronic sonic palette with a single electric piano accompanying Ocean‰’s heavily autotuned vocals for much of the song, until the song‰’s final minute where some synthetic sounding percussion come in. The sound of the song makes more sense when considering that it originally featured Travis Scott, one of the popularizers of the current autotune trap sound, although that version exists only as a poor quality radio rip floating around the internet.

Lyrically this song touches on many of the same themes seen throughout Blond in the same esoteric manner. Ocean seems to be talking both women and drugs at the same time in the songs opening lines, although the remainder of the first verse clarify that it is in fact a girl. The song‰’s chorus is more direct, as it talks about a girl that is still into Ocean “despite the life [he] leads‰Û. This “life‰” seems to refer to his life as a celebrity in the public eye, which he references in the lines “spirits watch me can‰’t be ‰baressed of it‰” and “feel their smiles on me‰Û. The song‰’s title also alludes to this same idea, with “Lens‰” referring to a camera lens, as both fans and media flock to capture his every move.