By Gil Kaufman
Frank Ocean suddenly released his Channel Orange album last night, one week earlier than its original July 17 release date, and he also took the stage on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” for his first performance after opening up about his sexuality.
Playing your broadcast television debut is a big deal for any artist. But add on the pressure of stepping up to the mic less than a week after making a potentially career-altering revelation about your relationship history and you can imagine the gravity weighing on new soul virtuoso Frank Ocean when he performed on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” on Monday.
Just a week ago, Ocean shared an emotional letter with fans in which he discussed the details of his same-sex first love?. The revelation led to an outpouring of support from Beyoncé, Russell Simmons and fellow Odd Future member Tyler, the Creator?.
And on Monday a confident, strong-voiced Ocean didn’t shy away from the elephant in the room, performing his new single “Bad Religion,” which features lyrics about the unrequited love of a man. Wearing a red and white bandana, jeans, a white T-shirt and maroon and black button down, Ocean was backed by a string section and haunting gothic keyboards as he unveiled the tale of a love confessional to a taxi driver.
“Taxi driver, you’re my shrink for the hour,” the soft-spoken crooner sang as he moved between looking out at the audience and casting his eyes down. “Leave the meter running/ It’s rush hour, so take the streets if you wanna/ Just outrun the demons, could you?” After begging the driver not to curse him, Ocean steeled his nerves and added, “If it brings me to my knees/ It’s a bad religion,” as the strings swelled behind him.
Mixing clear falsetto with his strong tenor voice, Ocean moved confidently into the chorus of the hymn-like song, “This unrequited love/ To me it’s nothing but a one-man cult/ And cyanide in my Styrofoam cup/ I could never make him love me/ Never make him love me.” As if revisiting the pain, he repeated the phrase “love me” several times before dropping his head and unleashing a series of high-pitched “whooo hoo” chants.
By the second verse, the audience began a slow clap along to the song’s funereal beat as Roots drummer ?uestlove added in a dirge-like marching drum snare roll. The song ended with a dramatic classical flair from the string section as Ocean stood center stage with his head down before breaking into a wide grin.
Channel Orange is slated to hit stores next Tuesday, but it dropped a week earlier on iTunes following the performance, where it immediately shot to the #1 spot on the download site’s album chart. Orange is also currently streaming on Ocean’s website.