REVIEW: Frank Ocean vs. The Weeknd

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.