Music

REVIEW: Frank Ocean vs. The Weeknd

Couch Sessions 05/13/2011 20 Comments

The new sound of R&B? Frank Ocean (left), Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, right.

This is the first in a series of critical reviews from our newest NYC-based writer Christopher Minaya.

The Weeknd said it best in his song ‘What You Need.’ “He’s what you want. He’s what you want. He’s what you want. He’s what you want. I am what you need. I am what you need.” In this case, ‘he’ is Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA, and ‘I’ is The Weeknd. With both artists’ latest mixtapes having circulated for weeks, this is not on impulse.

The truth is that Ocean is more sought-after seeing that Odd Future surfaced their underground repute. The numbers do not lie. Take account of DatPiff.com’s statistics. Ocean’s “Nostalgia, Ultra” was added to the site on the 19th of March. The free mixtape has been: viewed over a 100,000 times, and it has been streamed and downloaded over 40,000 times.

On the other hand, The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons” was added three days later, but has been viewed under 40,000 times, streamed under 18,000 times and downloaded a little over 10,000 times.

Even so, what does popularity tell one about music? Nothing. If you go to iTunes’ R&B/Soul section today, Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” is the number one song. Really, dude?

Be that as it may, the ongoing debate as to which of the two is the better artist can be summarized by the comparison of artists’ opening song to their respective mixtapes.

The Weeknd – What You Need

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Frank Ocean – Strawberry Swing

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Ocean’s first song, “Strawberry Swing,” is scant. He did not make Coldplay’s record his own. To make a record your own, one is supposed to not allow their concept to resemble the original artist’s concept too much. He did not do it well enough. A good example of how it is supposed to be done is how Drake took Kanye West’s “Say You Will” and made it his October’s Very Own “Say Whats Real.”

Now, if you try to discredit Ocean’s amiable vocals, go see an otolaryngologist. Meanwhile, his lyrics, though flavorful, leave listeners hungry, since his evident capability of providing food for thought tales is verging on absent, as he sometimes sounds as if he was somewhat preoccupied with the worry about disassociating himself completely from Odd Future’s appeal of being unorthodox, which is a speculation derived from the mixtape cover and certain bars. Ocean’s effort was fair thanks to songs like “We All Try” but cannot compete with House of Balloon’s flair.

The song The Weeknd starts with is “High for This.” It is not someone else’s record, which already gives him the edge, but it also does a superb job introducing: the striking instrumentals that many assumed was Noah “40” Shebib’s handiwork (but possibly , the theme of drug usage and the enticing, sexual content. In the song, the Toronto native chronicles him convincing a woman he recently met to trust him though he would not be using a condom and would be exposing her to a drug, before the two had sex. All in all, most of what the 20-year-old discusses are wrongs he induces listeners to write off with his voice and artistry.

It is more or less obvious that Oceans’s popularity, based on his and his group’s ostentatious oddity, has exaggerated people’s opinion of his musicality. He is what the public wants and has the potential to legitimately fulfill their wants someday, yet The Weeknd has elevated from having potential to having established himself as a more developed artist, which is what music needs.

  • http://airindanyell.tumblr.com Erin

    eh… I didn’t even know who/what OFWGKTA stood for prior to listening to Frank Ocean’s mixtape and I fell in love with it anyway. I like the Weeknd’s mixtape, but as far as which one I listen to more, it’s definitely Frank Ocean’s. The Weeknd’s song “High for This” is spot on, you almost HAVE to be under the influence of something to get the full effect of it. With Frank Ocean’s mixtape, you don’t have to be anything but in your normal state. That’s probably why more people understand where he’s coming from as opposed to The Weeknd.

    • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

      I completely concur with your point as to why more people understand where Ocean is coming from as opposed to The Weeknd. The Weeknd addresses a demographic that is rarely acknowledged, the demographic being the ones who live the night/party life that is submerged in drugs and sex. Ocean touched on that demographic, oftentimes, in his mixtapes, but not as well as The Weeknd did. By and large, one thing I was trying to get across was that, just because the music is relatable, does not make it good music, in this case, better music.

  • jconda

    This dude used “otolaryngologist”. Gotta love that…

    • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

      Appreciate it. I look at from the standpoint of, if you learn a word, why not use it?

  • oj

    I think the choice of songs to be representative of Frank Ocean here tips the scales unfairly in the wrong direction for this comparison. Frank Ocean managed to take “Hotel California” and make it his own on “American Wedding”, which is a far more daunting task than using a Coldplay sample. I’d have to agree with Erin in that I have downloaded both mixtapes, and Frank Ocean’s has seen way more play than The Weeknd’s, doing a far finer job of satisfying both want and need for me as a listener.

    • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

      I do not know if it was really unfair, for I think it is safe to say that the majority of Ocean’s current audience does not know who the Eagles are, let alone “Hotel California.” So, it was much easier for him to make it his own. Further, Ocean’s preference by most is just my point. I feel Ocean is talented, but The Weeknd should not be brushed aside. It appears that Ocean’s preference has played so well that it has evolved to favoritism, leaving The Weeknd on pause. That is a wrong that should be righted.

      • http://michaeltirone.com mtirone

        I agree with OJ, to pick Strawberry Swing to analyze before “American Wedding” on a remix basis is skewed. And to not address Ocean’s “Novacane” in comparison to the “night/party life that is submerged in drugs and sex” you described in Weeknd’s “High For This” shows to me you haven’t done all of your research. And to say that Ocean’s audience does not know who the Eagles are is both incredibly stereotypical and sadly a widespread generalization. I believe The Weeknd has incredible vocal and lyrical skills but the way you dismiss Ocean’s abilities is wrong. If you look back at The Lonny Breaux Collection (a 64-track mixtape) of Frank Ocean’s (real name Christopher Breaux (which you failed to mention) former stage name of Lonny Breaux) you’ll see he has just as much musical backing as The Weeknd with Ocean’s own concept resembling himself and no one else’s. To me it seems you came into this comparison already jaded, leaning toward the Drake endorsed Weeknd and hoping to settle the score against the more “mainstream” Ocean against the “underground” Weeknd. Both are incredibly young, talented, and driven men with two separate futures full of success. It’s too bad that writing comparison pieces which leaves reader’s with negative opinions toward one artist over another is still something that happens in the world of amazing music. Being an elitist toward mainstream music doesn’t make you smarter, while believing that one artist’s claim-to-fame being “on pause” is a not wrong needing to be righted. It means they are coming up in a different direction, not because they aren’t getting enough love from the music community.

  • Nickp

    To sum this up very shortly, Frank has more crossover appeal where The Weeknd will not cater to everyone. Bedroom R&B can only go so far which is why Frank’s music will last much longer in the end.

    Verdict Frank (Although his live show NEEDS WORK!)

    • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

      Yes, Ocean has more crossover appeal. You are correct. Still, it is too early to say that The Weeknd will not cater to all, since he only has one mixtape. Then again, what artist does cater to all? There has yet to ever be one, in any genre, which is why there are “genres.” No artist, better yet person, is that talented. In the main, the popular artist is not always the most talented.

  • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

    Just would like to thank you all (Erin, Jconda, OJ and NickP) for lending me your eyes/attention and sharing your thoughts.

  • Zale

    Abe should stick to producing because he cant really sing that good, although he is a good song writer. Frank Ocean is GREAT!!!!!!

    • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

      Both are melodically sound. In comparison, Ocean does get the advantage, yet Tesfaye’s voice should not be ignored. Ocean is indeed great, but so is The Weeknd.

  • Brice

    The Weeknd mixtape is classic and Ocean’s not.
    MORE APPEALER THATS ALL

    • http://allofthenikes.com/ Christopher Minaya

      As far as The Weeknd and more appealing point, it seems we are of the same opinion. In Ocean’s case, I will not make a judgment just yet. “House of Balloons” is that rare instant classic. “Nostaglia, Ultra.” may be a classic one day. Time will tell.

  • Pingback: OPINION: The Debate Rages On. Traditional R&B v. New R&B

  • MB

    Frank Ocean is amazing. The Weeknd I never heard of until a couple months ago is ok. I went through the whole mixtape and I could tell he really cant sing well. If I were to go to a concert I can tell that there would be a different sound. Abel has potential but Frank Ocean maybe heading toward one of the greatest.

    • http://www.allofthenikes.com cminaya

      I agree; Ocean is an amazing new artist. Still, The Weeknd is as well. Nowadays, to have a hit R&B single, the artist does not necessarily have to sing well, e.g. “Lil Wayne – How to Love.” But unlike Wayne, Weeknd has an exceptional control of melody. Both Ocean and Weeknd have potential to be even better than they currently are, and I await to see it materialize.

  • Greene

    Wow, you compare two great musicians with what – their mixtapes? Lets talk again in 10 years, who knows what will happen. I don’t see the necessity to compare them. Why should we?
    Is it necessary to compare Stevie Wonder & Marvin Gaye?
    On a certain level, which both of them have already reached, the space for comparison is only defined by subjectivity.

  • BeautifulListener

    The Weeknd and Frank Ocean are uncomparable. Who cares which is better than the other?! Not me, just shut up and listen to the damn music. They’re both incredibly talented?

  • http://twitter.com/YoungTerrell_ Young Terrell †

    FRANK!!