Frank Ocean’s Favorite Tracks

Frank Ocean gobbles genres like sunflower seeds, and spits them out in sprawling, boundaryless tracks that serve as a feed for pop’s collective unconsciousness. The playlist that he created for his ‘zine, Boys Don’t Cry, confirms this. The dusky, Cali pop of Mazzy Star is a clear influence on Blonde, while the haunting, tintinnabuli minimalism of modern Austrian classical composer Arvo Pärt informs the high-contrast ambience of Endless. And of course Frank Ocean loves Donna Summer, The Smiths, Al Green and D’Angelo. And, yes, we know he’s going to pick “Anytime,” which is inarguably the best track from Ray J’s album Raydiation. But the interesting stuff on here skirts the border of acceptable taste. David Crosby and Graham Nash would seem a bit out of place at this particular orgy, but their 1975 track “To The Last Whale…” (A. Critical Mass B. Wind on the Water)” not only has an amazing title, but its proggy, string-laden folk and narrative ambition helps answer the question, “What the hell is Frank thinking?” It doesn’t totally work as a playlist outside of its context, but it’s also unnecessary to divorce it from that context. If this piques your interest in the ‘70s Japanese synth music of Isao Tomito, then it achieved its goals. — Sam Chennault