Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Hero"- Frank Ocean, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, & Diplo

Forget the entire Frank Ocean/Chipotle beef for a second. Stop worrying about the strange disconnect between telling one major business to "F*** off" and warmly accepting the invitation of another. I know it's hard to extricate all that noise from this track, but once you do you'll be able to appreciate "Hero" for what it really is: another great addition to what is rapidly becoming a vaunted songbook.

Almost right away "Hero" distinguishes itself from much of Ocean's work by introducing a subdued, scratchy lead guitar figure from the Clash's Mick Jones. Had Jones' name not been slathered all over the release, guessing a member of the Bar-Kays or Booker T. & the MGs would've been a safe bet. Not to mention the clattering piano keys and thick as syrup bass notes from Paul Simonon. Hearing it all you expect a gravel-throated singer from the backwaters of the South to step forward. That's not what happens. Instead Ocean's voice comes gliding through, pledging his loyalty to America while admitting "I love some queen." From there he only humblebrags more over Diplo's restrained drum-machine skitters. He plays concerts in the mud, paints subjects in the buff, and can dunk. He's a "hero" he croons in the most genteel way imaginable. And such heroism calls for something more, in this case an explosive solo from Jones and the West Los Angeles Children's Choir singing Ocean's praises far and wide. In that ascendant moment, he's no longer some "dude" battling a burrito franchise, he's the caped crusader of R&B. Are we better off without him? Absolutely not.

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