25 Best Frank Ocean Songs

Best Frank Ocean Songs

Frank Ocean’s music is difficult to classify, though the term “alternative R&B” gets close. Ocean’s music has the “soulful singing and a strong backbeat” characteristic of R&B, but it also has elements of rap as well as many other musical genres.

Born Christopher Breaux, Ocean rose from a ghostwriter to an established solo artist with two Grammy Awards and a Brit Award for International Male Solo Artist to his name. Moreover, his albums have earned a spot in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and he was named one of the world's most influential people in 2013 by Time magazine.

Ocean’s approach to music is daring and unique, and his songs showcase his incredible stylistic and vocal range. Since 2011, he has been releasing songs that move us, often dealing with emotional themes like love and nostalgia, and here are some of the best Frank Ocean songs.

“She” by Tyler, the Creator feat. Frank Ocean

Song year: 2011

“She” may have been partially written and performed by Ocean, but it stands out on this list for its dark humor and lyrics about stalking, voyeurism, and necrophilia. The song seems to place Ocean as the woman’s current lover and Tyler as the stalker Ocean’s character is trying to warn her about.

It’s ironic that “She” is Frank Ocean’s most listened-to song, but its lyrics manage to hide a more satirical light cleverly. Besides the thought-provoking songwriting, the song shows Frank Ocean’s ability to both rap a verse and sing the hook.

“Chanel” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

“Chanel” is full of dualities, from the wordplay in the hook and references to Ocean’s bisexuality to his paradoxical relationships with the police, fame, drug use, and money.

Even the sound is difficult to classify, making “Chanel” typical among Frank Ocean’s best songs. The subtle piano riff is introspective, while on paper, the lyrics could be cast as meaningless fluff to anyone not really listening because of the typically superficial subject matter.

Ocean also effortlessly meanders between rapping and singing throughout the song, refusing to settle for any single application of his talents.

“Nights” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

Like “Chanel,” “Nights” also comes from Ocean’s blond album and features several layers of dualities. This song is lyrically dense and mostly rapped, first at a faster pace and in Ocean’s normal voice, then pitched up and slower in the second half.

“Nights” is about a tough time in Ocean’s life, with references to his displacement after Hurricane Katrina and his attempts to cope with sex and marijuana. He seems to be trying to suppress his feelings and possibly deny they’re even there.

“Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

“Thinkin Bout You” is one of Frank Ocean’s most popular songs, having stayed on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for 52 weeks in 2012 and 2013. It also gained Ocean a lot of fame after his performance of the song on Saturday Night Live in 2012.

A perfect example of Frank Ocean’s typical themes of nostalgic reflection about past relationships, it’s easy to see why so many people can relate to this song. Ocean sings longingly about his long-term vision for the relationship while his partner doesn’t seem to be on the same page.

While ballad-like, Frank Ocean also pulls out his rapping talents in “Thinkin Bout You” during the verses, although they might more accurately be classified as somewhere between rap and singing.

“Novacane” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2011

An intentional misspelling of the numbing drug novocaine, “Novacane” explores a theme of numbness during a past relationship. “Novacane” repeatedly refers to drug use and its highs and lows, but mostly the lows in the sense of emptiness.

Adding to the irony is the fact that Ocean’s partner is in school for dentistry because novocaine is most commonly used in a dentist’s office. However, the speaker can’t feel anything when he has sex with her, as he’s both taking drugs and experiencing his relationship as if the woman herself is also numbing.

“Pink + White” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

“Pink + White” evokes a sort of bittersweet nostalgic feeling, but with an emphasis on the “sweet” half. It’s simple, with a prominent drum beat and acoustic guitar strumming, but also simply beautiful. Ocean manages to make his grief over friends who have passed not feel entirely sad.

Also notable are the famous names on this song: Pharrell Williams produced it, and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter sings with Ocean in the background later in the song. It takes an incredible artist and vocalist to incorporate Beyoncé’s vocals and not be upstaged by the popular queen of R&B.

“Ivy” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

“Ivy” is a sad, singing-heavy song in the same vein as Ocean’s 2012 “Thinkin Bout You.” The song is equally emotional musically as well as lyrically, with one rhythm guitar providing the palm-muted bassline and another guitar echoing freely as it meanders up and down the scale.

The lyrics tell a story of passion but ultimately inopportune timing for the relationship to work out. Still, Ocean sings of essentially no hard feelings, although the couple has caused each other so much pain.

“Self Control” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

“Self Control” makes heavy use of pitch-shifted vocals in another dark reflection on a past relationship. The song also features vocals by Austin Feinstein, who is the guitarist and lead singer for the band Slow Hollows.

Lyrically, although Ocean’s character and his partner have both moved on from their past, “Self Control” is about whether or not the two can maintain that self-control and stay separated. It’s implied that Ocean regrets having moved on and wishes he and his partner could reunite, but it’s just not possible.

“Lost” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

Lyrically, “Lost” sounds like a song simply about a woman Ocean’s character led astray and into drug trafficking, but it’s also packed with clever references to movies and books, including a biblical passage.

As a relatively upbeat song, “Lost” is not nearly as depressing as it could be. This might be because, during most of the song, the woman at the center is still caught up in a fast-paced life. No matter where she is, she lacks perspective on just how deep she’s become entrenched in life.

The song ends with the couple presumably getting caught drug trafficking as they’re told to put their hands up (in Spanish). Although they’re in trouble, in a way, this ending can be cast in a positive light because the woman is no longer lost but found and cast in a bright spotlight.

“Provider” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2017

Ocean heavily distorts his vocals on this song from his blond album and shifts dramatically to a much slower beat about halfway through. His lyrics consider a past relationship and whether or not it would work out if he and his ex reconnected.

Ocean’s character feels a devotion to his ex because of the vision they provided, one of future suburban family life where longevity and commitment reign supreme.

“White Ferrari” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

John Lenon, Paul McCartney, Kanye West, James Ho, and Ocean himself are all credited for writing a part of “White Ferrari,” and it shows, even though the Beatles were only involved in a single line’s reference to “Here, There, and Everywhere.”

Ocean sings about forever caring for the person he remembers, who presumably has died and is only with Ocean in an alternate universe.

The song is profoundly emotional and full of intense longing. Ocean later commented that his little brother chose this version out of 50 others, and we’re lucky to have received such a good choice.

“Pyramids” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

“Pyramids” is a long song telling the story of a black woman’s fall from grace, from an ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra to a prostitute. As the song progresses, the beat shifts to a faster one, and Ocean leans more heavily into rap as opposed to singing, representing the shift to contemporary times compared to ancient Egypt.

The lyrics can be extended metaphorically to tell a larger story about the way black people were once royalty and now have experienced a long history of oppression and prejudice.

“Nikes” by Frank Ocean

“Nikes” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

Like many of Ocean’s songs, “Nikes” is split into two drastically different sections. It begins with his voice artificially pitched much higher than is natural for him, opening with singing, then suddenly transitioning to rapping in his normal voice later on in the song.

“Nikes” appears to be about superficial connections, from materialistic lust to sexual lust. Ocean is critical of this superficiality and does not attempt to hide it. He sings about authenticity and his struggle to maintain a more profound connection.

“Moon River” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2018

“Moon River” is a cover known primarily for Audrey Hepburn’s performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A simple but emotional song, the lyrics seem to tell a story about a metaphorical “crossing over” for a couple, possibly to meet each other in heaven.

“Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

“Super Rich Kids” takes a dark look at the numbing effects of wealth. So dark is his perspective that the speaker presumably commits suicide at the end of the second verse.

The song is also an excellent example of Frank Ocean’s vocal range and versatility, going from the lower end of his voice in deadpan rap to the upper end of his range in highly melodic singing. A verse rapped by Earl Sweatshirt further adds to the dynamics of the song.

“Godspeed” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

“Godspeed” is reminiscent of gospel music and even features the gospel singer Kim Burrell. Ocean emotionally says goodbye to someone he loves and wishes them well on their life’s journey.

The song is reminiscent of “White Ferrari” in that they both share unconditional positive regard for the person Ocean is singing about. In addition, the religious theme underlines the devotion the speaker feels toward this person.

“In My Room” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2019

Frank Ocean celebrates himself and his success in this single that caught fans by surprise because it wasn’t previously announced. “In My Room” is rapped in the lower end of Ocean’s register, noteworthy because he so often plays with his vocal versatility that it’s almost unexpected when he stays in a musically similar place throughout the song.

Ocean is proud of his authenticity and his wealth in this relatively recent single, but a bit of self-doubt creeps in by the last verse because he’s uncertain that he really knows the person he’s referring to.

“Swim Good” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

In “Swim Good,” Ocean sings about being in mourning for his past partner. He tries to escape the feeling of grief by “swim[ming] good,” possibly alluding to washing himself clean and/or drowning himself.

In either case, “Swim Good” is about releasing the pain Ocean feels by casting it into the ocean. It’s also notable that the song is relatively singing-heavy as opposed to Ocean’s typical partial-rap partial-singing.

This might be an attempt to complement the theme of first covering the pain as he wears a black suit and navigates encounters with police officers who pull him over and then releasing the pain when he goes off by himself to the ocean.

“Pink Matter” by Frank Ocean feat. Andrė 3000

Song year: 2012

“Pink Matter” is full of double entendres and not-so-disguised sexual references. It’s about pleasure and perspective on what matters.

Musically, the song starts off quiet and minimalistic but gets funkier as the guitar comes in at the second half. André 3000 of Outkast raps two verses on “Pink Matter,” plus plays the guitar on it. The shift in tone is echoed by the transition from primarily Ocean to primarily André 3000’s vocals.

“Golden Girl” by Frank Ocean feat. Tyler, the Creator

Song year: 2012

“Golden Girl” is a bonus track hidden at the end of Ocean’s 2012 Channel Orange. Ocean’s part is celebratory of his “Golden Girl,” while Tyler, the Creator’s vocally distorted rap, brings a dark and cynical attitude about the relationship.

In this way, “Golden Girl” mirrors “She,” positing Frank and Tyler as almost an angel and devil on the shoulders of the speaker, respectively, while “She” cast Frank as a well-meaning current lover and Tyler as a murderous peeping tom.

The song ends with laughter followed by static, seemingly giving Tyler’s dark humor the final word on Ocean’s album.

“Seigfried” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2016

“Seigfried” flies somewhat under the radar among Frank Ocean’s songs, understated musically and hard to follow lyrically. Ocean reflects sadly on his past, mostly singing but rapping with distortion near the end of the song. He seems to regret his lack of courage in general yet claims he would do whatever was needed for his partner.

Though he sings sadly of former dreams for the relationship, Ocean wraps up the song considering how meaningful it really was and suggests he let himself be sad but then move on.

“Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

In this song, Ocean sings of unrequited love being like a “Bad Religion” as he talks to his taxi driver as if he were Ocean’s therapist. It’s a musically dramatic and dynamic song with an organ playing in the background, further driving home the religious theme. 

“Bad Religion” is similar to “Godspeed” thematically but radically different in message and tone. Ocean regrets feeling the way he does for the person he loves and wishes he could stop himself.

“Forrest Gump” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

“Forrest Gump” makes a lot of sense to anyone familiar with the film of the same name, as it’s written from Jenny’s perspective on Gump. The speaker sings fondly of Forrest Gump as someone they can’t stop thinking about.

“Crack Rock” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

“Crack Rock” warns of the dangers of drug addiction while also criticizing law enforcement’s priorities when it comes to drug crimes versus violent crimes. Nothing about addiction is glamorous for Ocean, nor are its victims handled appropriately by society.

“Sweet Life” by Frank Ocean

Song year: 2012

“Sweet Life” is relatively minimalistic musically, which is ironic given the theme of surreal life with wealth. The “Sweet Life” is one that celebrates ignorance as bliss and comfort in the familiar. It’s a bit of an unexpected take for Ocean not to criticize this numbness in the way he does in other songs, such as “Novacane” and “Super Rich Kids.”

Top Frank Ocean Songs, Final Thoughts

Frank Ocean is a highly unique and vocally versatile artist. All his songs, though especially his best, are lyrically poetic and musically dynamic, often playing with themes of duality and reflecting on past loves.

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