From the rooftop of the American Express Experience Tent on an open field on Randall's Island, fans stared on as Frank Ocean gave an intimate, raw, and incredibly emotional performance on opening night at New York's Panorama Music Festival. On the grass below Amex's interactive tent, thousands of fans swayed and shimmied to seventeen of Ocean's most recognizable songs, in a warm summer trance. As the headliner for the first night of the sophomore year of Panorama, a periwinkle-haired Ocean took the stage immediately following Solange Knowles' soulful red-hued performance, and sang.
He didn't really perform. He bopped around, but didn't dance — that isn't his vibe. He sat on the ground and sang with the crowd, not at them. We could have all been sitting on the floor of a living room with him, kumbaya-style, making this the most intimate set I've ever witnessed at a music festival. But it makes sense: It's this quiet intensity that not only makes Ocean stand-out as one of the most vulnerable musicians in hip-hop (or any genre), but it is also exactly why everything he does goes viral.
Unlike other musicians and celebrities, like Katy Perry for example, Ocean doesn't go viral because of any outlandish publicity stunts, or headline-grabbing behavior. Instead, he chooses to focus on making music at his own pace, instead of aggressively vying for hit after hit. At 29, he's fluent in the digital language, easily appealing to his millennial fans through his deeply personal lyrics and relevant statements, like the one he made with his politically-charged white T-shirt on stage on Friday. Designed by an 18-year-old artist, the shirt immediately spread across the Internet for its frank (ha) political message: "Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?"
That's the secret to the universal appeal of Frank Ocean. It's why Brad Pitt loves him, and why Spike Jonze is following him around with a camera, recording his every move. His authenticity is intoxicating to witness — he's the least showy guy around, choosing to let his actions speak louder than words. His ability to blend in with the crowd, while simultaneously being its direct focus, is becoming a signature move of his. He's a Tumblr kid, who best expresses himself through casual encounters. He's purposeful, deliberate, and calm. He's the chillest performer around.
In a world full of meaningless chatter, Frank Ocean gives his fans the one thing they need the most: solitude.