2012 breakouts: Frank Ocean
Charting new waters
It always takes guts to tell someone you love them. But when Frank Ocean posted an open letter on his blog earlier this year, revealing that his first love was a man, the 25-year-old singer was taking an even bigger gamble, both as a rising star in the world of R&B, which takes pride in its lady-killers, and as a member of Odd Future, a hip-hop group that has used antigay slurs in its songs. And yet the response was overwhelmingly positive. Adele called him “so so special.” Beyoncé wrote a poem in his honor. Even Justin Bieber came forward as a “huge fan.” “His songwriting abilities are second to none,” Bieber gushes, “completely soul-stirring, mesmerizing, with beautiful storytelling.”
When Ocean’s major-label debut, Channel Orange, came out in July, his talent was so undeniable that no one really cared who the “you” in his songs was. Later that month Ocean played his ballad “Bad Religion” at Terminal 5 in New York, and when he got to the part about pouring his heart out to a Muslim taxi driver, realizing that he’ll never be with the man he loves, the whole audience sang along — tough hip-hop guys, preppy girls, a skinny teenager in a gay-pride T-shirt. Afterward, as everyone walked to the subway, the crowd raved about the set list. It’s telling that even after Ocean revealed his secret to the world, his fans only wanted to talk about his music. Maybe admitting who you love isn’t such a gamble after all.
Breakout author who has actually already written three books: William Landay