Understanding Frank Ocean’s “Nights” Beat Switch

Vitória Arantes

It takes guts to expose vulnerability, and Frank Ocean managed to pull it off beautifully.

You might know Frank Ocean from his notorious hip-hop music collective, Odd Future (OFWGKTA), or you might simply be able to associate the remarkable green hair to the former Def Jam artist. However, as far as a hype for musicians goes, Frank Ocean managed to unapologetically finesse his way into Daft Punk levels of buzz since the launch of Blonde -his second studio album released in 2016-. 

To say the least, Frank was seriously ahead of his time when he released Blonde; an ethereal melodic compilation containing a myriad of revolutionary tracks. The album’s tracks range from simple syllabic structures to remarkable pitch shifted vocals, all of which are included within the genres of alternative R&B, avant-garde soul and psychedelic pop. Blonde is a highly acclaimed album, as it presents Ocean’s introspective lyricism and a rather unconventional, progressive sound.

Each song from Blonde contains its own unique background history, forever holding a spot in the space-time continuum musical realm. The genre-defying Nights track, for instance, plays a major role in the album -one might say it is one of the most significant compositions of the album.- The sudden beat switch in Nights and its unparalleled manifesting powers is complex to the extent of becoming a field of study to Frank Ocean stans. 

The beat switch in Nights defines literal change in the mood for the entire album. The album is exactly one hour long, and the transition in Nights is at the halfway mark of the album at 30 minutes within its stream. The beat switch represents a turning point for the album. It is not only a switch in the song, but a switch in the album. Such musical switches are part of a theory known as musical frisson, which, as per described by Huron and Margulis (2011) is “a musically-induced effect that shows close links to musical surprise,” and is associated with a “pleasant tingling feeling,” through raised body hairs. In other words, you literally get goosebumps as a psychophysiological response to the auditory stimulus in Nights. One might even call it an emotional thrill, as it links emotional intensity to tangible sensations localized on any region of the body. Frank Ocean is not the only musician to utilize such a musical phenomenon. Similar patterns can be seen on songs like SICKO MODE by Travis Scott and Drake or New Slaves by Kanye West.

The reason this beat switch sounds so good is because it comes from absolute calamity. The distorted guitars, the string section, the collection of string instruments, and the reversed drum sections all arise from this beautifully chaotic place, where everything is presented in a crazy congested manner. It goes from zero to one hundred in a matter of seconds, and you never expect it, which is why it is so good.

Throughout the entire album, Ocean seeks to portray the motif of duality; which continues to be seen in the tracklist. For instance, if you count Nights as being both the last song of the first half of the album and the first song of the second half, you also realize that the beginning of Nights goes more along with songs like Pink + White and Ivy, whereas the second part after the beat change matches up with Siegfried and Futura Free regarding production style and lyrics. Another interesting concept to look at is the fact that the album listing is called Blonde, however, the album cover spells Blond. Going back to the theme of duality, some fans speculate that Ocean intended on changing the spelling of both names in order to emphasize the themes of duality between masculinity and femininity in his life; with regards to the singer’s sexual experiences. 

The album’s atmospheric tone brings to life Frank Ocean’s most vulnerable. It is almost as if Ocean is standing in front of his fans at his rawest spiritual form, -emotions unsugarcoated-  and saying “this is me, love it or leave it.” Must they love his strength and courage to throw himself out there in such an unshielded form. Must they praise his audacity to show his true and authentic self to the eye of the public. It takes guts to expose vulnerability, and Frank Ocean managed to pull it off beautifully.

Frank Ocean - Blonde Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Frank Ocean’s alternate Blonde cover

Catcalling vs Complimenting

Veronica Streibel-May

*disclaimer: this is not directed at all men. This has been generalized for the purpose of getting a message across.

Catcalling. Nothing provocative in the two individual words alone. Playing with a little kitty conjures up a sweet image. Nothing that can hint that this is a negative term. How ironic. 

The dictionary definition of the phrase catcalling is: ‘the act of shouting, harassing and often sexually suggestive, threatening or derisive comments at someone publicly’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

It shocks me that many still believe that showing a woman any kind of attention should be taken as a compliment. We musnt get confused between sexual harassment and admiration. They just don’t belong together. Catcalling is not a form of respect, you are in fact undermining the victim and making them feel vulnerable. 

Most girls have been honked at, yelled at or whistled at by simply strolling down the street, minding their own business. It’s not uncommon. It just goes unnoticed in today’s society as we’ve accepted and learned to ignore it. But why? Why tolerate such an act when all it does is demolish our self esteem. It’s just uncomfortable and for what? So guys in their cars can zoom past and feel superior and manly? 

To set things straight; the intention behind a compliment is to make someone feel good and boost their confidence. For example: “your hair looks really nice today” or “that top suits you”. However when someone random on the sidewalk is commenting on how “those jeans make your butt look awesome”, it sends a shiver down your spine. Since when is it okay to make a sexual comment like that? To be honest, it will make the person feel violated and rather self-conscious as opposed to attractive and good looking. Men may not see the issue behind as in essence having a nice butt isn’t a bad thing but the problem is the way it’s done is dehumanizing. Objectifying women is no way to go about “complimenting” them. Treating them like a piece of meat tells them they are not valued.

Women get scared. How should we know when it stops at the comment? When we’re all alone, we’re seen as easy targets. Walking from the grocery store to the parking lot can become a dangerous path at night. Asking men to stop only aggravates them further and can push them to get violent. Standing up for yourself may be the right thing to do, but at what cost? 

Some may blame women for wearing “provocative” clothes and in this case are “asking for it”. I just laugh at this response. Are you saying women have to limit themselves just because they’re afraid of receiving unwanted attention? Anyone should be able to walk out in whatever attire that pleases them and feel reassured that this won’t cause them distress from a rando in his car. It’s not the outfit. It’s the mindset. It’s the entitlement guys feel that they have the upper hand and think it would be fun to make a woman feel uncomfortable. Listen, it’s not cute, it’s degrading

The Beginning of the End

By Carol Khorramchahi

The remnants of another world are still all around me, but that world feels so different. I live in a place where you can’t go outside. I’ve crossed universes into another planet. Is this the big disaster of my generation?

We grew up surrounded by the frills of the cinematic world, the movies where high school was portrayed as a place where you’d either look for the bullies pushing you into lockers or where the class would break into song, mid-class, with a perfectly rehearsed choreography and a freeze frame of them jumping, with graduation caps mi-air and red curtains closing on their school years. As a person that tends to go by the “glass half full” type of attitude, I chose the “High School Musical” route when dreaming of what’d it be like to be a “big kid.” Safe to say, this looks nothing like High School Musical.

Every morning for the past three years, I would come to my dining room and tell my mom “I don’t want to go to school today,” when choosing between waking up early and my bed. My mom always told me “be careful what you wish for, God works in mysterious ways and the universe is listening to everything we are saying now.” I’d laugh it off, I knew it was true, but I knew I could handle whatever God, or the universe threw at me that would make me not able to attend class. Or I thought I did anyway.

Screen Shot 2020-10-30 at 7.50.44 PMWe later found that the seven days away from school, had turned into seven weeks, rapidly growing into seven months. Life was put on pause and put into an alternate universe. I remember writing the following extract mid quarantine, about three months ago, where the light at the end of the tunnel was nowhere to be seen. “This can’t be real. It’s everything but real. School isn’t a place you go to anymore, class is just an awkward video chat over your tablet. It’s odd, but not that bad. Did we ever see our friends in real life? Did we ever touch a pencil? Did we ever do school in a uniform? The remnants of another world are still all around me, but that world feels so different. I live in a place where you can’t go outside. I’ve crossed universes into another planet. Is this the big disaster of my generation? Is this the large event that we tell our grandkids about?  I can practically see myself sitting in a rocking chair, telling my grandkids, “Oh I remember when that old virus struck… Everyone was so excited to get out of school… It was a different time back then.” It feels like I’m living through something big… so big that it fills up the outside air like a thick syrup. Every once and awhile, a little seeps in and you remember – it’s syrup outside. I could die out there. Then you throw the syrup away and try to forget. It’s all too easy to forget what came before – I think I already have.”

Flash forward to Monday, 26th of October, the infamous day we all counted down: back to school. I had it all planned out in my head, starting high school, university hunt activated, the beginning of the end. The wind howling as we arrive through the gates, hustling and bustling down the corridors. Friends greeting each other with a hug or a playful punch while newcomers would stand looking scared. The seniors standing, tall and proud, confidence born of experience. Soon the bells would ring  and everybody would run except an occasional slowcoach or chatterbox. Everybody going in except one and all is quiet; smiling to myself. “Another school year begins,” I’d think before smiling and running in to join the others. Too cheesy? Thought so, but it’d be something along those lines. 

Today, as I practically skipped through the school gates, without Mr. Bair’s high five, or Jackson’s huge smile, which I could only make out from the smile wrinkles around his eyes. I looked around, everyone 2 meters apart, with our strings tugging at our hearts, tempting us to get closer. I realised what growing up was all about, what being a “big kid” in high school consisted of: growing up. We lived through three years of middle school with our Portuguese teacher telling us, “You won’t make it in high school if you don’t mature, start to be a citizen of the world.” And that’s exactly what we did today. To mature one’s psychology requires ongoing effort for a lifetime, otherwise, like the ignored muscle, it can wither. It’s about being flexible, being the lamb in some situations and the lion in others. 

So although I should’ve been careful about what I wished for a few months ago, although I should’ve maybe lowered my expectations going into high school, and although hugs won’t be happening so soon, we can still have our own High School Musical experience. Maybe not breaking into song mid class, not too sure Mr. Bair would find that funny. It may not have started the way we wanted to, but it will still end with our graduation caps mid-air, beaming smiles and butterflies escaping from the pit of our stomachs (masks or no masks).