Frank Ocean performing at Coachella in 2012David Hwang/Flickr:

After his first appearance in six years at Coachella, critics are calling Frank Ocean’s set mediocre, half-hearted, and disappointing. From starting an hour late to pulling the YouTube livestream and cutting the setlist early due to curfew rules set by the city of Indio, many feel that Frank’s reappearance was nothing above subpar.

“The days since his performance have exposed just how misunderstood Frank is as an artist and a performer”

The final set differed hugely from the original plans. An ice rink with professional skaters should have been a defining feature of the headline show. Frank injured his ankle days before his performance, sending the initial plans into a spiral. Two of the skaters associated with the show appeared on a podcast last week, recalling Frank’s excitement in the months leading up to Coachella, and the rapid decline in his spirits upon realising that, due to injury, he couldn’t perform as originally envisioned. What we witnessed on Sunday night (16/04) was a scramble to keep things together from a man known for his perfectionist tendencies.

For those viewing Frank’s performance in the context of his career to date, his Coachella set was a true exposé of everything that he is, and all that many fans have grown to love and accept in support of his artistry. Claims that money was wasted seems a little unfair given both the circumstances leading up to the show and his overall delivery.

Firstly, Frank gave us exactly what we’ve been waiting for: raw acoustic renditions of his timeless pieces across all albums, new adaptations of classics like ‘White Ferrari’, confirmation of a new album in the works, and the vocals that so separate him as a musical genius. The jagged in-between moments that many scoffed as awkward and time-consuming were sprinkled with precious soundbites from Endless and were a true insight into the sometimes methodical, oftentimes unpredictable way that Frank Ocean does music.

“It is almost like the mystery that Frank has created by avoiding the limelight has rendered him indebted to the world”

The days since his performance have exposed just how misunderstood Frank is as an artist and a performer. Those who saw his festival appearances in the summer of 2017 understand his seemingly uncoordinated, raw, and often anxious stage presence. He has a tendency to repeat songs if he feels he did not serve them justice, and to adjust his set if it isn’t reflecting his vision. Coachella was no different. The pulling of the YouTube liveset is unsurprising if he felt unable to deliver an optimal performance.

It is almost like the mystery that Frank has created by avoiding the limelight has rendered him indebted to the world. The incredible demand for a Frank Ocean performance has had a compounding effect on the over-dramatisation of the chaos of Sunday night, fuelling negative commentary. In reality, what we saw was a talented human with human flaws and human anxieties, who is likely under immense pressure from the music industry to perform despite clearly not being your stereotypical performer.


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His mistake was agreeing to headline a festival like Coachella. Frank’s reappearance should’ve been concert-based, for fans wishing only to see Frank. Though there were many in the audience who were only there for him, a large percentage were not, as is the nature of music festivals. A smaller venue with less pressure to adhere to “putting on a show” may have been better. So why did he perform? Frank has been locked into this contract with Coachella since 2020, and the speech he gave mid-concert revealed that he wished to honour his brother Ryan, who sadly passed away in the same year.

In defence of Frank Ocean, he gave us everything we’ve been waiting for, and some. Those who were disappointed with his set should note that performing is not a one-size-fits-all-model, and Frank Ocean is an artist that exists far outside the norm.