Every autumn, a drama plays out in Peanuts, detailing the unease of trust and the inevitability of betrayal: Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown to kick. Sometimes it’s Charlie Brown’s idea, sometimes it’s Lucy’s and Charlie requires coaxing and assurances that Lucy will definitely hold the ball steady. Occasionally Lucy goes into hysterics, asking Charlie Brown why he doesn’t trust her. However it begins, it always ends the same way: Charlie Brown steams ahead with singular focus and connects with nothing but air as Lucy snatches the ball away at the last second. It should never come as a surprise because he knows, but it does all the same because still, he hopes.
By now, we should all know better than to trust Frank Ocean. [Nasally #actually voice] Not to say that he actually owes us anything, mind you. But even still; Boys Don’t Cry (or whatever his third album is going to be called because, like, can he legally call it that?) has been dangled in front of us and cruelly yanked away several times over. Last April, Ocean announced the follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange, along with a zine, would be coming out that July.
July came and went.
An entire year passed, and I fell for the same April Fools’ joke about the album’s release — the exact same one — twice. Ocean peeked out from behind the hedges a few times this calendar year, with an outro to a Kanye West record that was, then wasn’t, then was; on James Blake’s funereal The Colour in Anything album, and in a Calvin Klein ad in which he cozied up to a Marilyn Monroe impersonator.
Then, in the wee hours Sunday night/Monday morning, his scarcely updated website boysdontcry.co flickered to life with a livestream featuring an Apple Music logo.
I sat up watching this like an incorrigible idiot.
12:33 a.m. PT: IT’S HAPPENING. EVERYBODY SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN IT’S HAPPENING.
12:41 a.m. PT: OK, so, there’s no actual music yet — just some distant, off-screen chatter, and some workbenches. Mostly it’s just white noise, but this moment is pregnant with anticipation. There’s something to be said for the entire world grinding to a halt, waiting to be amazed.
1:00 a.m. PT: This is definitely myth over method, right? Isn’t the height of superstardom when you can indulge yourself to this degree without reproach? Filling a virtual room with die-hard fans and neutrals alike, so keen to see what you’ll do that they’ve totally forgotten themselves? That they’ve put their lives on hold for you?
Also why am I still awake?
2:34 a.m. PT: Nah, man. I have literally been staring at an empty room for an hour. This is bullshit, I’m going to bed.
7:03 a.m. PT: There’s now a dude walking around the workshop sawing wood, accompanied by really beautiful, orchestral, ambient music. Is this the stuff that he was working on with French pianist Christophe Chassol at Abbey Road?
7:10 a.m. PT: More ambient music that sounds like it was grafted from Daft Punk or one of Damon Albarn’s aberrant side projects, but still nary a word sung. Is this a commentary on the connate detachment from the outside world that producing high art requires? Or is this going to be like one of those Chrysler commercials in which Clint Eastwood spins some yarn about the American spirit while a dude in a workshop whittles a 300 out of a California redwood?
I wonder what kind of miter saw this guy is using.
8:30 a.m. PT: I need to make breakfast but I am literally scared to get up from my laptop.
9:02 a.m. PT: Calf-rope. I give up. Nothing’s happening, I have no idea what’s going on, and I have things I’m supposed to be doing. However, I do recall the last update we got: that Delphic “date due” library slip he posted last month. It had a series of dates, most of which had already passed. After Sunday night, we can tick off “July 2016,” in disgust. One of the other stamps, reading “Nov. 13 2016,” is yet to come.
I would say that I’m not getting my hopes up, but that’d be a lie. Anyways, if you need me, I’ll be watching the “Swim Good” video on repeat until then.