As soon as it was reported that Spike Jonze had something to do with Frank Ocean, I knew it was going to be something special. What exactly they were teaming up on still isn’t entirely clear, but I do know that Jonze was behind the live video feed during Ocean’s recent performances at the London-based Lovebox Festival, FYF Festival in Los Angeles, and New York’s Panorama Festival. Jonze’s filmmaking style and the musical musings of Ocean work together perfectly, both providing beautiful and acute insights into the minds of the ones behind them.
Up until the release of Endless and the subsequent release of Blonde, Frank Ocean disappeared completely from the public eye, with the exception of a few images that came courtesy of the paparazzi. Even Ocean’s appearance on Kanye’s The Life of Pablo — originally the closing verse of “Wolves” that was then given its own short track as part of the album’s constant evolution — seemed like it was recorded into a GarageBand mic in a basement somewhere. Finally, in August 2016, Ocean finished building the steps and Endless was revealed. Then, a week later, he delivered Blonde, which was quickly crowned our single best album of 2016.
The most important part of this pairing of Spike Jonze and Frank Ocean — especially in the festival setting — is the way that Jonze’s imagery expanded Ocean’s insular universe to the thousands of people gathered to watch him perform tracks from Endless and Blonde live. Ocean’s appearance at these festivals wasn’t much of a performance per say; there were no light shows or pyrotechnics or fireworks. Rather, it consisted solely of a man — a man with immense talent and presence — and his band, performing songs that were created by a man who found himself suddenly alone, meant to be listened to alone, but in the company of a vast multitude of onlookers. For these festival performances, Jonze was the missing link that made them spectacular, giving us our best glimpse into Ocean’s aforementioned beautifully personal and reflective world.
Consider Jonze’s last large-scale production, his Academy Award-nominated 2014 film Her. The film essentially depicts one man experiencing the many facets of loneliness after losing the woman he loved. (Also, yes, he does fall in love with his computer, but that’s beside the point.) It’s almost indescribable, the way that Jonze captures the emotion of these moments of isolation. Somehow, you feel it too, deep down in your gut. You see the character, and you feel what they are feeling. Not to mention the composition of every shot is just beautiful as all hell. Check out a clip below.