Personal Soundtrack

16 Jun

The Song

Pyramids by Frank Ocean


With “Pyramids”Frank Ocean pushes beyond the sonic and temporal constraints of the standard R&B song and reaches for an epic scale.  Over the course of it’s nearly ten-minute running time, “Pyramids” journeys from the nightclub, to the night streets, to the bedroom, to Africa, to the pyramids, to a fantastical land populated by Cleopatra and cheetahs – all on the back of Frank’s silky smooth voice.

As the subject matter of the lyrics shifts, so too does the musical style and tone of the beat and vocals.  Early on in the song, a pulsing electronic hook takes over for a few moments, and it’s an early sign that this is not your typical down-tempo track.  This part of the beat wouldn’t sound out of place on a straightforward house track, but in “Pyramids” there’s something about it that’s mysterious, echoing, and expansive.  As if it were sounding out in the desert night.

The best part of the song comes near the halfway mark, when Frank shifts into a vocal style that’s very near to rapping.  Lyrical hooks come fast and furious, and the whole thing sounds as if the narrator of Usher’s “Nice & Slow” dropped E and went to the club instead of driving straight to pick up his lady.

It’s easy to make comparisons between the smooth voices of Usher and Frank Ocean, but the awesomely weird self-indulgence of “Pyramids” does a lot to set Mr. Ocean apart as a wholly unique artist.  With this song, Frank creates a track that doesn’t sound like anything else out there.  This is not a radio-ready track, even though there are sections of the song that could theoretically be cut and edited and released to popular acclaim on your local Hot 100 station.  No, this is a deep album cut, an artistic statement that showcases Frank’s beautiful croon, his ear for sneaky hooks, and his weird, freaky sensibilities.  “Pyramids” not only sets the stage for Frank’s full album, Channel Orange, dropping next month, but it also raises the appeal of catching him live.  Will he turn “Pyramids” into a 20-minute long showstopper?  Wouldn’t be surprised.

The Activity

“Mmmm.  B, where you going?”

“What?  Go back to sleep, baby.  I’m not going anywhere.”

“Fuck that.  I can see you in the mirror.  You just put your panties back on.  Those cheetah print ones I got you.”

“Oh, honey.  I’m sorry.  You caught me.  But I need to go.”

“What?  Where?  You can’t just leave like that.  Especially after what just went down in here.”

“Mmm.  Yeah.  But I really need to go.”

“Well, fuck.  Where are you going?  And what time is it?

“It’s almost midnight.  And don’t worry bout where I’m going.  I just gotta take care of something.  I’ll see you soon.”

“Whoa.  Slow up.  Are those six-inch heels you’re putting on?  Oh, fuck, babe, really?  The Pyramids?  I thought you were done there.”

“Frankie, baby, I’m sorry.  But you know how it is.  I have an obligation.  He’s the pharaoh.  As in The Pharaoh.  I thought you understood that.”

“Babe, there’s no reason you have to leave.  You’re with me now.  Fuck that Pharaoh title.  Listen to that jazz playing.  I got rubies in my damn chain.  My bills paid.  My whip ain’t go no gas tank, but so what?

“Frank, don’t do this.  I gotta go.”

“Fine.  I’m running a bath.  If you’re not back in an hour I’ll find someone else to share it with.”


“I’m done with this conversation.”

“Don’t be like this.  I’ll see you later.  Okay?”

“Air guitar.”

[Door Slams]



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