Frank Ocean – “Thinkin’ Bout You” – Live VMAs 2012

When going into a live performance, there are so many things I look for and so many things that make it worthwhile. Different performers are great at different things, whether it be choreography, vocals, stage presence and set up, costumes, or just general crowd engagement. The list is endless and there really isn’t a set list of rules to adhere to, rather what determines the success of a performance is a combination of these certain factors. But one of the most important factors that applies is the artists ability to seamlessly adhere visuals to the concept of the song. I’ve said it plenty of times before but the importance in a live performance is that it brings a song to life and it gives it so much more meaning. Applying a visual to a track in a music video is a little easier because an artist has time to put it together, along with special effects, lots of costumes and angles, and extra visuals. But when a live show can be this captivating, that tells a whole different story. Having to perform on the spot and and create concepts where you essentially only have a stage to work with is incredibly daunting. However when it comes to Frank Ocean, he seems to have a special knack for his type of thing.

The show opens up with a bonfire and we’re immediately thrust into a dark, moody campfire scenery, topped off with a moon, plants and minimal colored lighting. With the stage set up like this, Frank Ocean is almost hidden and there really isn’t much going on. Yet, despite the fact that he doesn’t move around the stage and there only seems to be his gutiar player up there with him, there are so many symbols that help the song feel even more real and relatable.

“Thinkin’ Bout You” discusses an old relationship where you’re stuck because of a rejection and are having a hard time getting over the other person. In times of rejection, it’s almost impossible to showcase how you truly feel, and this performance where Ocean is almost entirely in the darkness is a perfect symbol for that feeling. Wanting to say certain things but going back and forth is perfectly visualized by being in the dark and essentially not being able to show the truth. But what’s interesting is when we consider the bonfire, which of course brings light and warmth. This could allude to two different things; either the burning away of feelings, memories or photos associated with this person, or the opposite, which is the burning desire to be with said person. The lines “Or do you not think so far ahead? Cause I’ve been thinkin’ bout forever” give us an insight that it could possibly be both, each party taking one side. One last defining characteristic is that fact that it’s set in the night time. This really puts a larger emphasis on those emotions, considering they’re strongest at night, when you’re alone and have time to reflect on them.

Along with the visuals being simply incredible, this show also displays Ocean’s best vocals. He seamlessly moves thriugh falsetto vocals and a lower range, not only displaying immense talent as a singer but making it look so incredibly esy (which it is not, let me tell you). Live singing isn’t a must in my book, but it’s definitly a heck of a plus when you can do it like he did here.

Live Performances

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