The Revitalization of R&B: Frank Ocean vs. The Weeknd

This has been on my mind since this past Spring when Frank Ocean and The Weeknd blew up. Not only was I shocked that these artists that became so popular were creating R&B, but it seemed EVERYONE was down for this movement. I have no problem with that at all as I really think R&B kind of wasn't as big with the crowd of 18-34. Sure you have Trey Songz, Usher, Beyonce, etc, but they are hardcore mainstream. Frank Ocean and The Weeknd have breathed life into the genre. While Dan and I both appreciate these artists, we decided to give some pros and cons of the two.


I'll start with Mr. Ocean. There is something to be said about his hypnotic mixtape nostalgia, Ultra, it just caught my ears instantly. Ocean's crooning is smooth and easy on the ears, but I think it is his messages in some of his songs that stick out. "Swim Good," "Songs for Women," and "We All Try," to name a few always hit me. Out of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, right now Ocean has the more modern appeal. His mainstream accessibility is undeniable and he has potential too not only keep underground fans, but captivate the mainstream crowd who rely on radio for new music.

My cons with Frank Ocean play right back into his style. While his music has some substance and some great production, he really is not much different from many mainstream acts. Right now he has a decent balance, but I'm wondering if his label will push him to that mainstream level too quickly. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with success and mainstream notoriety, but do it too fast and change up styles can alienate your core fans. This doesn't mean it will happen, but he has mainstream appeal written all over his music, so it is a possibility.

Pros: It's true that Ocean's first song made him sound like OF's Drake, but that was his first song and it really didn't reveal much about him except his songwriting skill and wit. If you listened to "Songs For Women" and payed no attention to the words, you might just think it's a rip-off. But if you pay attention to Ocean's lyrics, you know exactly what he's going for and it's way more clever than that. Ocean has since released a huge variety of songs that all sound like him, but have very different themes and moods. It can't be said enough: this guy's got skill.

Cons: Sometimes his songs can lack some substance. Usually with his songs, the more you listen, the more substance and detail you pick up on. But, I have to say, some of his songs are just downright cheesy; I'm looking at you "Nature Feels". Also, his crew doesn't have the production skills that The Weeknd's does. But, that doesn't really matter; as long as he keeps writing good songs, he's not going anywhere.


Where to start with The Weeknd? Honestly, House of Balloons blew me away with the opening track "High For This." Not only was Abel Tesfaye's vocals unique, but his dark ominous lyrics were on another level from any other R&B artist. Drugs and sex ooze through out the eerie production, but it's what draws you in as a listener, and after one listen, you are completely hooked. The Weeknd's originality is what sets Abel apart and makes him so good.

The one issue I have with The Weeknd is can he live up to the hype? Drake being a huge supporter is good for getting props, but must be nerve racking having to live up to the pressure of not letting such an artist down. After he dropped the second mixtape Thursday, I was slightly disappointed and didn't like it as much as House of Balloons. Granted production was there and the vocals for the most part, but a lot of the material was not at the level of the first. Now, I'm sure it is hard to create another mixtape that can top such a masterpiece that was House of Balloons, but it felt weird. Recently, another song was released for his third upcoming mixtape, and honestly I didn't like it. I get the experimentation and trying something new, but doing that too quickly can push away the fans who loved the first tape, similar to my gripes with Ocean. I'm all about pushing music to the next level and trying new things, but really we've only known about The Weeknd for almost a year, no need to re-invent what clearly works so well already. I think he is young and just getting started so I'll continue  to show my support for him.

Pros: That first mixtape was incredible. It was one of the most cohesive debuts I've ever heard. The Weeknd's production has been consistently excellent. Actually, it's set the bar rather high for anyone else making pop music. And he's shown that he can right a near perfect song with "What You Need".

Cons: That second mixtape was blah. Yes, the production was still excellent, and yes, there were some decent songs; but overall, it was mediocre. Which leads me to question whether Abel Tesfaye wrote the songs on House Of Balloons alone or not. Did he have a co-writer that wasn't named? Did he ditch him or her on the second mixtape and that's why it was so bad in comparison? Music conspiracy theories, man. But seriously, I think maybe The Weeknd just set the bar kind of high on their first release and so the next was bound to disappoint. I really hope they try to hurtle the bar with next tape, but if they don't it's understandable. Three mixtapes in one year is hard for anyone no matter how much talent they have.

I think that between Ocean and The Weeknd, we're going to have a huge influx of indie R&B artists trying to be original. Hopefully some of them actually are. Either way though, it's awesome the way these two have brought R&B to a wider audience, and one that probably wouldn't have given it a second thought otherwise.



Frank Ocean is the shit. Some chick told me to check out The Weeknd lately so now that I read your article Todd, I'm a definitely give it a listen.

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