Friday, August 17, 2012

Frank Ocean and the New Normal

I have been flat out obsessed with this Frank Ocean song, Bad Religion, for the past few weeks.  If I am in the car, I will literally play it five or six times in a row. I'll embed a link to a video below, but don't feel like this blogpost is one of those, "OMG, you guys, you HAVE to hear this song now."  Because, god, who can handle the pressure of feeling obliged to wait for a video to load and then if you don't like it are you polite or do you risk being the jerky person who's all "This song sucks"?   Consider this a non-obligatory recommendation.

If you don't listen to it and haven't heard it, it's this yearning R&B song about loving someone so bad that just will not love you back.  And this kid can sing!  When he gets to the lyric "and if it brings me to my knees," I'm like "Oh, yes! Frank Ocean!  I can feel it! I can feel what you're feeling!"

The person on the other end of this unrequited love is a straight man so it's a song about a man in love with another man.  But Bad Religion doesn't aim to raise anyone's consciousness and it's not a song where the singer is all disco sexy and outrageous and there's no caginess about pronouns to cast doubt on the gender of the parties in question.  It's just itself right there in the pantheon of great, yearning unrequited love songs.  It just makes you, like I said, think "Oh, yes!  Frank Ocean!  I can feel what you feel!"

Which brings me to the new normal.  I read this post some time ago on T.Lo (a blog which EVERYONE should read daily because not only is their pop culture analysis really thoughtful, they also manage that awesome thing of being really funny without ever stooping to mean) about an episode of Glee.  The post (which is so good, I'm linking to it twice) blew my mind as something that would never have occurred to heterosexual me: how lovely and significant it must be for a gay teenager to see their idealized love stories on TV.  This is the thing that pretty much composes the sum total of teenage pop culture for straight kids!  But for gay kids?  It was genuinely revolutionary.

I have been on record that I think Glee is a terrible show now (fwiw, Tom and Lorenzo agree).  But it was an important part of this late culture wave of normalizing sexuality that is not only heterosexual.  So, while my aged ears fell in love with Bad Religion because I have felt what he's feeling (who hasn't become a grown up with some painful experience of loving someone who doesn't love you back?) .  But, I also remember being a teenage girl and listening to John Waite yearning and aching his way through Missing You, and thinking "Oh, John Waite, I will love you if she won't!"  And this is a teenage fantasy so common it's banal.

How great is it that we're living in a world where some gay teenager can see Frank Ocean (who is, not for nothing, a really cute guy) and indulge in the same silly teenage fantasy that's been served up to every straight teenager since Shakespeare was writing about Romeo and Juliet? And indulge in it in a world where being gay isn't some exotic abnormality?  Where it's Top 40?  In a song that's not about how hard it is to be gay, but how hard it is to be on the wrong end of an unrequited love?

It's just, I think, a wonderful new thing in the world.