Author: Sam Seliger
Enigmatic R&B/pop artist Frank Ocean has released a new song, titled “DHL,” his first new song since 2018. Ocean shared the song at the end of the latest episode of his BLONDED Radio show on Apple Music’s Beats Radio.
For the most part, “DHL” is a classic Frank Ocean sound but with a marked change in vocal style. The song opens with a sparse drum beat, and modulated, multi-tracked vocals croon nearly unintelligible lyrics. The verses find Ocean rapping about wealth and male love interests over a hazy drum and bass. While lyrically the song is in line with Ocean’s previous work, he sticks almost entirely to rapping; although Ocean has rapped verses before in his music, he has rarely dedicated whole songs to it.
The release of “DHL” follows the announcement of two new songs, titled “Dear April” and “Cayendo,” on his website. The two songs are currently available only on 7-inch vinyl. Each $15 disc contains Ocean’s version of the song with a dance remix on the B-side; “Dear April” is remixed by French electronic duo Justice, while “Cayendo” is remixed by DJ and producer Sango. According to the website, disks will be shipped to buyers in 2-3 months.
The previous night, Ocean hosted a one-off nightclub event titled PrEP+ (a reference to the drug that treats HIV) in an homage to “what could have been of the 1980s NYC club scene” if not for the AIDS epidemic. At the event, Ocean played the dance remixes of “Dear April” and “Cayendo.”
The enigmatic singer and songwriter had been quiet of late, last releasing music in February 2018, when he shared a cover of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Something of a recluse, Ocean is well known for his lack of public persona, rarely doing interviews and only recently making his Instagram (his only social media account other than a rarely-used Tumblr page) open to the public. He retreated from the spotlight for over three years following his 2012 debut album “Channel ORANGE,” reemerging in 2016 to release “ENDLESS,” a 46-minute music video, and his most recent album, “Blonde.”
Many are speculating, in part due to the 13 images at the bottom of the “DHL” cover art, that Ocean will be releasing a new album shortly. “DHL” would presumably be the lead single. In a September interview, Ocean had stated that his forthcoming album was inspired by club music, which would align with his recent nightclub event and the dance-oriented remixes. While “DHL” lacks any notable elements of dance music, it could possibly be an outlier on the album.
This album would be an exciting proposition. “Blonde,” which received tremendous critical acclaim, recently being named the best album of the 2010s by Pitchfork.com, was moody and hazy, chronicling feelings of longing and loneliness with tremendous restraint and minimalism. Club-oriented dance music would be a major departure from all the music in Ocean’s discography, with the possible exception of his earliest demos as Lonny Breaux in the late 2000s. But for an artist as talented and unique as Frank Ocean, such a creative left turn almost seems like a logical next step.