June 28, 2012 11 comments
It’s no secret OFWGKTA member Frank Ocean has become quite the breakout star. From features on Watch The Throne to performances at the year’s biggest music festivals, the kid is everywhere. So why are we nearly two weeks away from the release of the singer’s debut album, and you’d be hard pressed to find any mention of the project anywhere (other than the blogs of course)?
The problem lies somewhere between Ocean’s complexities as an artist and Def Jam’s general incompetence. On the one hand, Frank Ocean is markedly introverted. Where artists like Rihanna have successfully crafted personas that wholly trump the quality of their musical output, Frank’s ascension represents the antithesis to the contemporary handbook on breeding popstars. Ocean’s appeal is as much related (maybe moreso) to his elusiveness as it is his cathartic lyricism. Hell, he barely appears in the video for his most well-known song, ‘Thinkin Bout You.’ The result, though, is a disconnect between Ocean and the larger audience. Indeed, Ocean presents the perfect juxtaposition; the benefactor of internet sensationalism but the victim of a fickle record-buying public. Put another way, many have heard (and enjoyed) a Frank Ocean song, but aren’t attached enough to buy an album from the singer.
But let’s not forget about Def Jam’s role in this mess. The label’s relationship with Ocean has been little more than wet ink on legal documents (an issue on which Ocean has been quite verbal). They snagged Frank’s initial plan to release Nolstagia, Ultra as an album. They bailed on plans to re-release the mixtape as an EP. But, most importantly, the label failed to capitalize off Ocean’s e-world hype and transform it into something more palpable by mainstream media. No television appearances. No radio interviews. No album…until now.
Considering these circumstances, let’s revisit my initial question, but revise it slightly. Rather than ask why isn’t there any mainstream hype surrounding Channel Orange, let’s ask how we can generate it. In less than 3 weeks, how can we take Channel Orange from relative obscurity to the forefront of music news? My fellow bloggers, The Black Kevin Arnold and LoneXionc, and I have decided to play A&R, and tackle this very question.
Here are the 10 ways to save Frank Ocean’s album from flopping.
This is such an obvious step, but Def Jam still hasn’t done it. ‘Pyramids‘ is a fantastic song that fans can tell was carefully crafted by Mr. Ocean, but the fact that mainstream music listeners have never heard it is a problem. Def Jam needs to get this song on iTunes like yesterday. Not only would it truly be a shame if this powerful single goes to waste, but a flop single spells disaster for an album.
We would’ve suggested Frank Fridays, but, quite frankly, Frankie doesn’t have that kind of time. He has less than a month to build his audience and, in this day and age, people respond to all things free. Frankie needs to get on that good Kanye/Timbaland/insert any no name rapper plan, but up it times 10. That means giving out free music…EVERYDAY. It’ll get new people interested in his material, and it’ll reward the fans that have been there since his days as Lonny Breaux.
We normally wouldn’t advocate for someone we like to appear on Black
Embarrassment Entertainment Television, but the awards show will be one of the most watched programs on Sunday night. There are many capacities in which Frank could make this work. Although the ideal situation would be to have him added as a performer, Frank hasn’t quite elicited the hype from BET to support such a move. Our suggestion is to add as him as a presenter or, even better, let him perform as a part of a house band. It’ll give him the opportunity to perform some awesome covers while previewing new music off Channel Orange.
This seems like such a no-brainer that it really shouldn’t have to be said, but for some reason, there’s been heel-dragging. ‘Pyramids’ is 10 minutes long. That’s the opposite of radio-friendly, and won’t get any play except from the occasional college station. People are already putting out their unofficial edited cuts. Frank and Def Jam have to cut that down to around 4 minutes and be happy with it, then release it. You can still have super long songs on the LP, but your average radio listener is too young and too inattentive to sit through a 10-minute single. The next step in the process would be to put it on video. The song already lends itself to some stunning African imagery; why not get out there and shoot something gorgeous? You can do a long-form video and a short-form for the MTV networks. Even if you only get thrown in the rotation on late nights, insomniacs like me will eat that shit up. Step on it, DJ!
Rolling Stone, Interview, Complex, shit—Ozone. Frank’s management needs to be trying to get him on the cover of something before his album drops. Fans love reading articles, and seeing artists on the front of their favorite music publications. I can remember running out to the store and buying a copy of Billboard magazine when they put Odd Future (Frank included) on the cover. As a fan, being able to read the story, and flip back and see them on the cover was extremely gratifying to me. It made me want to hear their upcoming projects. Def Jam needs to set that up for Frank so that casual listeners will anticipate this project.
Twitter is a powerful tool when it comes to a celeb’s marketability. Not only does it allow artists to connect with their fans, it also lets them indulge in shameless plugs for upcoming shows, performances, and anything else they decide to hawk over the e-waves. It’s time Frankie take advantage. With an endless list of A-listers at his fingertips, why not indulge in some good ol’ payola. No one’s asking him to pay for radio spins, but who says you can’t pay your celeb friends to tweet about your album?
Remember when Frank penned ‘I Miss You‘ for Beyoncé’s 4 album? Well he needs to call in a favor quick fast and try to get her onboard for a track. Everyone loves Bey, and she has the most diehard stans in the business. Frank needs to take a long look at his album tracklist, see what song she would sound best on and just have her sing one of his verses. There’s not enough time for Beyoncé to be struggling in the studio with pen and paper, trying to
buy a songwriting credit write something halfway decent. Just head straight to the booth and read and sing. That’s all we have time for.
We all know the power of viral marketing these days. Being from Boston, I’m all too familiar with the effects that subversive marketing plans have had (remember those little LED things that made everyone think there were Aqua Teen Hunger Force bombs primed to go off throughout the city?) Well, this is a much easier idea. First off, buy 3 or 4 billboards in major cities across the United States; hell, you could do it overseas if you wanted. Then cover those billboards with solid orange. No text, no images, just the color. The idea behind this would be to redirect Google hits to the Channel Orange website. People will be wondering “what the hell is that giant orange thing I passed on the way to work?” and will look it up out of curiosity. If you google “orange billboard” or “orange banner” (maybe even just “orange”), the first thing you would see is the official website for the album. Maybe throw up some bonus content on the website, like a promo code for a discount on the deluxe edition of the CD.
One of the best ways to build a buzz for your upcoming project is to hit the radio circuit. True, the Internet is a great tool, but actually sitting down and doing interviews with radio personalities is a much more personable way to promo your album. Frank needs to find a way to get on with everyone at Hot 97, the Breakfast Club at Power 105, Drama down in ATL, Power 106 out in L.A. and all of the other heavy hitters in radio. Def Jam should have it where he’s sitting in on at least two radio shows a day to make up for lost time. He also needs to support these interviews with performances. Show potential fans why your product is worth buying.
This is probably the biggest necessity in promoting the album. Frank initially won fans on the quality of his material. Who’s to say he can’t do it again? Def Jam needs to organize listening parties in every major city, and give away tickets on the radio. Hell, they can even organize a meet-and-greet for the winners. Frank can use the contest to turn casual radio fans into his fans.
We only have 19 days until Channel Orange‘s release. But hope isn’t completely lost if Def Jam
finally acts like a label launches the necessary promo campaign for the project. Frank Ocean is one of the most refreshing R&B artists to emerge in recent times. It’s time his label started treating him as such.
But what do you think? How would you save Channel Orange?