Music by VICE

Frank Ocean’s New Live String Section Is Great Even on Shitty Phone Footage

Attempting to appreciate magical countermelodies through the hindrances of modern technologies.

by Phil Witmer
Aug 11 2017, 3:55pm

Image via

Frank Ocean has won 2017 despite releasing no full-length albums this year. On top of those three great singles and Blonded Radio as a whole, his live festival shows have provided a wealth of experiences, even if you weren't there. Just when you thought Ocean couldn't top a Brad Pitt appearance, here come the strings.

Frank's appearance at Sweden's Way Out West Fest featured an entire string section accompanying him on "Good Guy," "Ivy," and that sweet Jackson 5 cover he's been doing. For Frank, a fan of both romantic 70s soul and Brian Wilson-ish baroque pop, this likely represents a dream come true of sorts. It's unfortunate that this musically beautiful event will possibly survive only through phone footage unless you decided to make the trip out to Gothenburg. I didn't, so I'm gonna draw upon my harmony knowledge to assess these string arrangements through the shaky hands, subpar audio, and choppy editing of the average concert filmmaker.

The audio is actually not totally terrible here but there are still some issues. The videographer only managed to capture the very ending of "Good Guy," a new section added to the live show that subtly mixes the C major mode and the D minor mode. The strings emphasize the latter harmony by hitting those F notes, or at least that's what I think is going on because the bass guitar drowns them out due to the EQ imbalances of smartphone mics. The skeletal nature of "Ivy" is incredibly accommodating of the additional voices (the chorus chords become add9s, which is ace) and melodies provided by the strings and the song now totally sounds like Pet Sounds. Again, the audio is doing no services here but you can make it out. "Never Can Say Goodbye" is completely fine. No complaints. Good job, random concertgoer.

What we can learn here is that a) string sections are always good when working with talented musicians and b) let's wait for that possible concert doc and its HQ audio before doing complex harmonic analyses of music. Hmph.

Whatever, Phil had fun. He's on Twitter.

frank ocean
music theory
Way Out West
string sections
i got two versions