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A much-awaited return to the stage sparks split opinion among fans who waited hours for a short nostalgia trip.

It’s been six years since his last live performance, and seven years since the previous studio album and for the lucky few, it felt like a lifetime until Frank Ocean graced the Coachella stage. In that lifetime, fan expectations were set astronomically high and to some extent, not by fault of their own. For the past month, plausible conspiracy theories have speculated the release of “Nostalgia, Ultra” on streaming services as well as new music coming from the elusive icon. But from the moment crowds began to flock to the Main Stage, fans were set up for a poor end to weekend one of Coachella. 

On entry, signs on tents that read ‘NO FRANK OCEAN MERCHANDISE’ were enough to make festival-goers unsure if the singer would show. Those not able to attend were led to think the same. Leading up to Frank’s set YouTube, who were streaming all artist sets throughout the weekend announced it would not be livestreaming the performance. This impacted Ocean’s international fans tremendously, as the different time zones meant either staying up late until morning or sleeping before the stream.

As news started to circulate that Frank was almost an hour late for his act, sympathy was felt by other fans who weren’t able to attend. Many fans were waiting an hour before the planned start time of 10:05 PT that by the time Ocean showed up, they lost patience and decided to leave. This isn’t the first time Ocean has had issues with punctuality. In 2017, the singer cancelled at least two festival appearances attributing his absence to “production delays”. Coachella might be the final straw, as it can only be so many times that production can be blamed before we hold the recording artist accountable.

When he did get round to it, the setlist was made up of reworked favourites recreating a similar vibe to PrEP+. Whilst the first rendition of White Ferrari pleased many, most fans were upset with the singer for allowing a DJ to play remixes of  “No Church in the Wild” and “Lost” instead of performing the songs himself. The cherry on top for most was Ocean dancing and lip-syncing along to Nights and not doing what they paid for – perform their favourite songs to them. Reactions from neutrals and fans alike were not too dissimilar to what might as well have been a “#frankoceanisoverparty”

Naturally, comparisons to the Beychella standard were made as the expectation of a headliner is to put on a two-hour-long show worthy of the $500+ fans pay for admission. But anyone that has a clue about Frank Ocean’s career is that the New Orleans native doesn’t follow a rulebook nor does he do things because his fans say he should.

That’s the real problem here, no matter how much music fans want to put Frank Ocean on the pedastal, the man doesn’t have to answer us. He has always exercised boundaries whether it’s his personal life, creative processes or album release dates. His rebellious nature and mystery are what attracted so many fans initially but it seems like the very nature that might push them away. Frank Ocean though, like every human being, is entitled to his privacy. But it’s the fans that have waited years, put themselves out of pocket to travel over to the Californian desert that deserve a decent performance from him. After all, they paid for a service and many were still unsatisfied.

Discourse surrounding the Coachella headliner points to the complicated relationship between Frank Ocean and fans. The singer has a unique fan base, one that is usually patient and supportive no matter how Frank Ocean’s private affairs affect his ability to fulfil his job. However, any healthy relationship is reciprocal and it’s safe to say fans don’t receive much in return for the emotional and financial support they give. You get two types of fan: the entitled and the defensive. The entitled ones that think a seven year drought is enough suffering and that a return to Coachella must mean a 2 hour long performance of perfect vocals and a new album to enjoy on the way home. It’s a reasonable demand but it doesn’t change the fact that they want Frank Ocean to be at their beck and call. The defensive ones all seem to be Frank Ocean’s personal therapist, attributing performance issues to the singer’s mental state after the passing of his younger brother, Ryan Breaux in 2020.

Regardless of whether a fan is entitled or defensive, the relationship Frank Ocean has with his fanbase is at breaking point. Many hopefuls were certain they’d get an improved performance on weekend two of Coachella, that is until last night, when it was announced Frank Ocean had dropped out of his second headlining set. According to Variety,

Blink-182 will replace him as the headliner with injury to his left leg being the reason why his doctor advised Ocean to cancel on fans. 

When the news broke, fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment. Even though fans were empathetic, some still feel they were scammed out of a lot of money trying to see Ocean and Coachella isn’t able to offer an act that shares a similar audience.

Surprisingly, some didn’t see the leg injury as enough reason to cancel, citing performances from an injured Michael Jackson to wheelchair bound 2 Chainz as evidence of showing up when physically in pain. 

We hope Frank Ocean takes all the time he needs to recover. But not for long, as it’s the time apart that drives fan expectations through the roof. 

Compliments of: Courtney Jones-Edwards

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