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Why Was Everyone So Mad About Frank Ocean’s Coachella Set?

Frank Ocean didn't exactly play it safe with his first performance in six years.

Frank Ocean ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

It’s been a harrowing week for Frank Ocean fans. The beloved musician hadn’t performed in nearly six years before coming out for last weekend’s Coachella set, and expectations were high, especially after a teaser video from BMW convinced some that Ocean was gearing up to announce a new album or new streaming access to Nostalgia, Ultra. While Ocean did seem to confirm a new album coming during the show, the Coachella set itself was so full of unexpected elements that many of even the most die-hard fans came out feeling like their experience hadn’t been taken seriously—and those less committed to Ocean felt downright insulted.

While it’s still not clear what caused Ocean’s performance to begin an hour late, whispers from behind the scenes suggest there was a massive change in blocking at the last minute, with an ice rink originally slated to be involved being pulled from the show. There was also meant to be a livestream of the show that Ocean canceled at the last minute, to the devastation of fans who weren’t able to make it to Indio.

Once Ocean did come on, he performed some of his most-loved songs—but nearly all of them in unrecognizable new arrangements that some Coachella-goers appreciated more than others. There was an emotional interlude where Ocean spoke about the death of his brother, who passed away at age 18 in 2020, and who used to go to Coachella alongside his older brother: “I know he would have been so excited to be here with all of us,” Ocean shared with the crowd. In the middle of Ocean’s set, French DJ Crystallmess came on and played ten to twenty minutes worth of songs, depending on who you ask, including Ice Spice’s “In Ha Mood.” Ocean also played the album versions of two of his songs—”Nikes” and “Nights”—while he danced on stage, taking another break from performing live.

All in all, while some die-hard fans were patting themselves on the back for expecting an unconventional show from their fave and getting it in spades, others who had been hoping for a technically proficient live performance of the songs they knew and loved best left disappointed. Amid the mixed, strong reactions on all sides came a ringing endorsement from at least one celebrity in attendance: Justin Bieber, who took to Instagram to express his admiration for what Ocean had accomplished with his emotional, provocative show.

“I was blown away by Frank Oceans Coachella performance,” Bieber wrote. “His artistry is simply unmatched, his style, his taste, his voice, his attention to detail. I was deeply moved. It made me want to keep going and get better as an artist. He continues to set the bar high and gave me a night I will never forget!”

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