TOTW: Frank Ocean_ Pyramids

Modern Hiphop and R&B have definitely been things that I’ve had to grow into. As a teenager the thought that i would pay attention to the genres would have probably made me shake my head at my future self with a scowl of disappointment, thankfully I have grown up.

I have battled long and hard over what has caused this shift in myself from hater to a lover and I think it’s mostly because this area of current popular music is one of the more varied and fastly developing genres. Rock may not have run out of ideas but it’s certainly winding down. Bands currently try to spice things up by adding synths and replicating sounds that other genres have done before, better. The main reason for this is a lot of rock has a real respect for its influences.

Hiphop on the other hand has always been a twisted bastard demon child of a genre. Mugging what it wants from other areas of music and stripping it away, till its lean with none of the fat. Add to that the chace of the American Dream, where money is the very definition of success and your left with this arrogance in the bigger artists. It makes them try bombastic ideas above their station and amazingly more often than not pull it off.

The polar opposite is successful modern artists in rock. As their releases increase they “hone their sound” but rather than making it edgy they aim for blandness, Mass appeal, untill they’re the equivalent of audio wallpaper, songs under 5 mins long that will get airplay with lyrics simple enough for a load of people in a field to sing along to. The only adverse reaction received will be a shrug of the shoulders and the thought that at least it will be easy to forget.

This brings us to Pyramids by Frank Ocean and an example of why HipHop and R&B are a fantastic cure in the mainstream to this squalid stagnation of pop. Although the single version below is edited down by 2 minutes it still comes in at just under 8. You can hear it develop from a synth heavy almost rave style track into something far seedyer. Elements of artists like vangellis and tangerine dream in the synths make way to the use of sampled trumpets. These give the track a sence of tradition, providing a great contrast to the electronic drum sequence used. This then breaks into a gliding detuneing synth line for the chorus which adds to the tracks overall unnerving feel before it mellows into John Mayers lead guitar line, reminiscent of the smoothest 80’s guitar solo.

The amount of ideas throughout this track manage to keep you constantly guessing where its going to go and yet none of them feel out of place or tacked on. A great example of what this genre can do when done well.

I still don’t like all R&B or Hip Hop, in fact some of it I hate. But I would rather that be the case then a dull indifference I feel from a lot of modern popular rock bands that clog up the airwaves.

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