Frank Ocean, the introspective singer who has thumbed his nose at music industry conventions, has unexpectedly released a new song, a reflection on relationships set to a mellow R&B vibe.
Ocean put out the new track, “Provider,” on his irregularly scheduled Apple Music radio show on Sunday evening just as artists were gathered for the MTV Video Music Awards. Ocean has recently steered clear of award ceremonies, questioning their value and methods, despite himself winning a wide platform when his first album “Channel Orange” was feted at the 2013 Grammys.
“Provider” comes out one year after Ocean again gained wide acclaim for his follow-up album, “Blonde,” which he independently released a day after uploading an abstract film to free himself from a record contract.
“Provider,” characteristic of Ocean’s work, is set to gentle keyboards with his voice fluctuating between his rich, soulful range and hip-hop delivery.
The song touches obliquely into the question of how to find intimacy as Ocean sings, “Show me some wisdom in your movement” before a chorus in which he repeatedly says the phrase, “Feelings you provide.”
“Provider” goes heavy on pop culture references with allusions to Japanese anime, legendary film director Stanley Kubrick, New Wave rock pioneers Talking Heads and the English experimental DJ Aphex Twin.
Ocean starts the song by mentioning a close friend named Memo, leading online fans to point to Memo Guzman, who was most recently spotted with Ocean near the ring at Friday’s hotly anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
Ocean made waves but largely won acceptance in the often macho world of hip-hop when he revealed at the start of his career that his life’s first love was a man.