Single Review: Frank Ocean - Moon River | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Single Review: Frank Ocean – Moon River

Frank Ocean delivers on his promise of 'a good year' with his cover of the Hepburn classic, Kieran Read reviews

Frank blessed Valentine’s with a subdued number dedicated to all loved ones
It’s almost hard to believe there was a time when Frank Ocean was all but missing, a time before the ethereal Blonde, anfractuous Endless, or the quietly excellent handful of singles that defined him as our generation’s most prominent R&B harbinger. He recently informed us at the turn of the year: ‘If you liked 2017, you’ll love 2018’, and if you know Frank Ocean, then you’ll know this is an extremely tantalising prospect; after years of silence, Ocean has finally found comfort in a limelight he desperately sought to avoid. If you do know the man, however, you’d also know he has a tendency to evade expectation.

On a day dedicated to R&B’s spiritual provenance itself, Frank blessed Valentine’s with a subdued number dedicated to all loved ones, covering the Mercer and Mancini written, Hepburn performed classic ‘Moon River’. Compositionally, Frank borrows from his own play-book liberally: spacious electric guitar noodling, tranquil synths and lush string sections, all of which contribute to a level of ambient serenity akin to the sound mastered on 2016’s Blonde. Elsewhere, Frank employs a choir made of his own pitch-shifted and filtered voice to echo, harmonise and croon over certain lines like splinters of his consciousness uniting in a love-drunk fellowship.

‘Moon River’ slides into Ocean’s canon like a vignette from his own life
Ocean’s intricate fusions of poeticisms and street diction are, of course, absent here, though the lyrics that speak of idealistic affection, child-like dreamscapes and stoned idling seem too comfortable a fit to be coincidence. Much like his other chosen covers, Aaliyah’s ‘At Your Best’, Steve Monite’s ‘Only You’, Radiohead’s ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, The Carpenters’ ‘Close To You’, ‘Moon River’ slides into Ocean’s canon like a vignette from his own life; if it hadn’t been written before, it feels as if he would have done it himself.

What separates the song from these other covers, however, is how ingrained ‘Moon River’ has become to our society, so inherently and perfectly encapsulating the feelings of falling in love that it verges on self-parody. Ocean’s contribution does little to change this; for an artist so openly embracive and knowledgeable on the underground, there is something slightly misplaced about the cover, if not heartwarmingly straightforward.

The track, much like the original, though unlike cuts from Blonde, reaches no climax; perhaps like his own love and dedication to us in the near future, the track idly and cooly drifts onwards. With an overdue audio version of the elusive Endless and a finished album under wraps both on the way, Frank’s cryptic promise of a good year, for once, seems plausible, ‘Moon River’s understated excellence a great place to start it.



25th February 2018 at 9:00 am

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