Frank Ocean's dreamy, digitized cover of "Moon River" arrived in the world today, and a few fans are... confused. "Moon River" is an iconic song written for the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the song won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1962. Some of the Twitter reactions to Ocean's latest release, though, seem oblivious to the song's origin.
"luv how we can all freak out when frank ocean releases new music. it's a beautiful thing," one Twitter user noted.
Another lamented, "[The] new frank ocean song is so awesome it makes me miss my guitar." The word "new music" is thrown around as if "Moon River" is a 2018 single, when it's not.
Ocean's take on the song is distinctly "Ocean," though — there's no mistaking those striated vocals, that's grade-A Frank Ocean music. And the grand tradition of "covering" songs has faded in the past 30 years, so much so that covering a song is no longer seen as creation. (Blame streaming services and the accessibility of songwriting technology. In 2013, the proliferation of creative covers on Spotify became a problem, as per Salon, and streaming services started deleting covers that popped up on their platforms.) "Moon River" in particular is well-trod territory. Everyone from Elton John to Morrissey to Chevy Chase to my mother on special occasions has tried their hand at it. It's a good song to cover! It's broad and not particularly difficult to sing, so it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. If Audrey Hepburn can sing it, so can you.
That said, this is Frank Ocean. Elusive and masterful, everything he does is treated with reverence. This isn't just "Moon River," this is Frank Ocean's "Moon River." In other words, he owns the song now. No one else can cover it. That is, until the next Frank Ocean comes along in 2036.
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