In 2010s, R&B reemerged from being a 2D-bubblegum genre to groundbreaking. It didn’t happen overnight, rather overyear. The year in question is 2011. And if you have to pick 2 artists that changed it the most, you have to mention Frank Ocean and The Weeknd.
Both dropped their debut projects then. For Frank Ocean, it was “nostalgia, ULTRA”. It was released on February 16, 2011. The Weeknd followed the next month with the release of “House of Balloons”.
And all of a sudden everyone was talking about that new sound, that someone labeled a cocky “PBR&B”. The sound was experimental and didn’t even try to follow the charts. Everything you need to know about R&B back then: genre’s best-selling artist was a teenager named Justin Bieber, who back in the day didn’t have a clue about Diplo and Skrillex, but had an annoying as song titled “Baby”.
What Ocean and Weeknd offered was different. For Frank, it was personal and beautiful collection of songs. For Weeknd, a way more darker and uncomfortable collections of songs that dealt with women and drugs in a manner that make you feel guilty in front of your girlfriend after just listening to it.
Both of them went to further to become global superstars. They never collaborated and never even mentioned one another in a single interview (maybe cause both don’t speak much to the press). And yet, they are two sides of one and the same coin.
The closest they ever got was on Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo”, where the featured on a neighbouring tracks “FML” (The Weeknd) and “Wolves” (Frank Ocean).
The Weeknd spent last 7 years to become a household name. Hits on hits on hits — check. A celebrity girlfriends (Bella Hadid & Selena Gomez) — check. Collaborations with Marvel (he has his own comic book now), H&M and Puma — check. Try going to any country in the world and not to hear his voice — you’ll fail.
Frank Ocean took a different route. He wasn’t working on infiltrating charts on Drake scales. Rather, he made himself in a living legend. A walking mystery. Nobody knows much about him. He keeps his private life VERY private, except for his coming out letter that he published on his tumblr a couple of days before his debut album “channel ORANGE” hit iTunes. And yet today he’s one of the biggest artists out there.
The Weeknd is the hitmaking monster. Some may even consider him to be R&B’s main antihero. While Frank Ocean is the ultimate romantic, a superhero.
Would they be successful without one another. Sure, both are completely independent on their own. Would we love them that much. 100%. But would it be that interesting to follow them? Definitely no.
R&B in 2018 is The Weeknd AND Frank Ocean. And it’s beautiful. R&B’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Dichotomy. Luckily, we don’t have to be bi-polar to appreciate it.Modify