Frank Ocean

frank-ocean

I tend to overrate coincidences — or worse, imbue them with meaning — and Black Friday’s got me all twisted up.

I woke up early this morning to line up outside a record store in hopes of landing a copy of The Lagniappe Sessions — the Aquarium Drunkard-facilitated covers compilation I wrote about on Wednesday. Those hopes were dashed, unfortunately; the store I chose to wait outside had disappointing Record Store Day policies that involved letting regulars in earlier than everyone else in line and not letting customers browse the exclusive stock themselves. It was weird, but hey — I am a visitor here.

It wasn’t a total loss. I multitasked during the chilly, hour-plus wait by listening all the way through Frank Ocean’s Blonde for the first time. Before I left this morning, I saw that Ocean has opened up a one-day window to order Blonde on vinyl, and because I had, for months, incorrectly filed it under “Albums I can’t listen to on Spotify and will wait to buy on vinyl,” I hadn’t gotten to know these songs very well.

After listening once while in line and a bunch more while driving around Northern Virginia, I was still on the fence. With shipping factored in, the price point is pretty high, and I’m not sure I’ll end up connecting with Blonde the way I did with Channel Orange. I reread Pitchfork’s glowing review to see if that would help me decide, then remembered I’d saved the link for a recent New York Times interview with Ocean, and that’s when I saw it: lagniappe. The titular word I’d waited faithfully for this morning. The word I’d uttered timorously to a clerk at the record store just after 9 a.m. and just as shakily to two other area stores over the phone later on.

Ocean used lagniappe — which is defined as “An extra or unexpected gift or benefit” and pronounced “lan-yap” — to describe how it felt to release Blonde after maneuvering out of unwanted business entanglements:

With this record in particular, I wanted to feel like I won before the record came out, and I did, and so it took a lot pressure off of me about how the record even would perform after the fact. Once the goal is met, everything else is lagniappe. It’s not essential for me to have a big debut week, it’s not essential for me to have big radio records.

Seeing that word again brought my day into sharper focus. How much of what we buy on Black Friday is extra? A bonus? I can certainly live without that Aquarium Drunkard compilation, just as I can carry on if I’m forced to keep listening to Frank Ocean via Spotify. And I promised myself, in the wake of the election, to slim down to a leaner, meaner version of myself. More exercise. Less excess. I bet there are a zillion ways I could use my record budget to fight the oncoming storm of discrimination and shortsightedness our government is set to unleash in the next four years. Austerity suddenly feels righteous. Political, even.

Then again, records make me happy — listening to them, reading about them, writing about them, keeping them organized. Is turning away from that happiness wise? And the monetary reward I’d send Ocean’s way by buying a vinyl copy of Blonde is greater than I’d ever be able to send via Spotify; is denying him that money helping in any meaningful way? I really don’t know. I’m scared about the future, like a lot of people are, and I’ve built up this particular decision to the point where it seems like there is no right answer. Things feel very hazy right now.

How’s this for a coincidence: The first song of Ocean’s I could find to embed (after failing to find anything official on YouTube) was “Self Control.”

Frank Ocean — “Self Control” [Spotify/iTunes]

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