Why are we so drawn to elusive artists like Frank Ocean or Kendrick Lamar?

Why are we so drawn to elusive artists like Frank Ocean or Kendrick Lamar?

Imagine queuing for a brand new roller coaster at an amusement park. The roller coasters are massive, stretching their tracks skyward as if trying to hug the clouds. We are thrilled because we can see the loops, twists and colossal drop of the queue. And with every inch we move forward and forward a little further down the line; hearts sink with anticipation and excitement.

Now imagine if this roller coaster was indoors and entirely in the dark. From where online, we have no idea what to expect from the ride, how fast it goes and if there are any loops; everything is a mystery. Is there still the same excitement, or does the mystery bring out a new feeling?

The commonalities between the rollercoaster and the music are pretty thin, but there seems to be a similar thrill ruminating inside when an artist we haven’t heard from in a while releases a new album on the improvised.

Let’s look at artists like Frank Ocean, SZA, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. These artists remain relatively silent in the digital world until they release an album. And even then, they usually let the music speak for itself and stay out of the spotlight as little as possible, unless they’re touring. But despite being out of the public eye, these artists are constantly trending on social media, their music is still garnering millions of streams, and their fans are patiently waiting for a crumb of new music to fall into their lap.

On the other side, artists like Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, and Olivia Rodrigo always seem to be in the spotlight and have no problem sharing their daily lives and experiences with their fans online. Not that these artists aren’t as talented or exciting as the first ones, but as an audience member, knowing too much about an artist is almost unappealing.

Consider one of the hottest artists of the 2000s, Kanye West. When West was in the promotion cycle for his album, donda, in 2021, it felt like there was another outrageous West news story or headline everywhere you turned. Whether it’s unconventional sound album rollouthis flawed relationship with Kim Kardashian or the intriguing list of album features, there was always something new to say about Ye in those days.

Even with Kanye West fans, there was a time when some of his followers got sick of seeing Yeezy’s face everywhere. With the release dates pushed back and the constant stadium listening parties with the updated version of the album, many fans were getting burned out and just wanted him to release the album and dive in and not needn’t worry about the controversy surrounding West’s personal life. Of course, that’s a personal preference, but maybe some fans enjoy their art with a bit of mystery, turning to more elusive artists who keep their lives hidden from the world.

Frank Ocean is probably the most elusive and mysterious artist in pop culture today. No matter how often his name is trending on Twitter or how many “Self Control” covers are posted on TikTok, Ocean is still nowhere to be found. Or at least no one knows about updates regarding new music from Ocean.

Ocean was supposed to headline Coachella in 2020 when it wasn’t an imaginary year. And when the Desert Music Festival came to fruition in 2022, Ocean made it clear that he was still not ready to perform again and decided to be placed on the programming 2023 In place. A rather intriguing move from an artist with such demand, but apparently even a salary from Coachella isn’t enough to get Ocean out of hiding and performing.

Admittedly, Ocean is not entirely isolated. Fans constantly spot him ride a bike around New York, pretending to take phone calls and dressed like an absolute dad. But despite these rare sightings, very little is known about Frank Ocean’s forthcoming albums. And that unknown hint of whether or not music is on the horizon has fans glued to their seats.

Another artist who has been relatively quiet since their last release is Kendrick Lamar. Before announcing his most recent album about a month ago, there hasn’t been a peek from the corner of Kendrick since Damn. However, as much as fans speculated about a surprise drop, Kendrick released a legal letter stating his new album. Mr. Morale and Big Steps will be released on May 13, 2022.

May 13 has come and gone, and to everyone’s surprise, a new Kendrick Lamar album has found its way onto streaming services for their ears to listen to. But with the new album released, Kendrick was still quiet, not posting many Instagram stories, tweeting to fans, or answering questions; he just let the music speak for itself. And this practice is something that many artists should practice.

Once an artist releases music to the general public, the music no longer belongs to them and is now in the hands of the listener. And the listener is allowed and must interpret their art in any way necessary to connect with the message the songs are trying to convey.

Another rather elusive artist is Childish Gambino. After the explosive success ofWake up, My Love!it looked like Gambino would use this momentum to release another batch of radio hits to attract more listeners. But alas, his last album, 3.15.20, had a very low-key rollout with hardly any promotions. Gambino just released the project and continued to remain silent. And there is something quite admirable in this process.

Maybe the reason artists staying quiet during their album release cycle is so appealing is because we live in a world where our attention is constantly being asked for? Or maybe because if an artist doesn’t post on social media, the public forgets about it and moves on to the next one? When an artist isn’t trying to solicit your attention, it almost feels like they respect our time as an audience and understand that they don’t need to do anything flashy or flashy. hateful for us to listen to his music.

Artists such as Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar have weathered silent droughts because their music stands the test of time and has great replay value, no matter how long they were interrupted. These artists always find themselves trending online because of the quality of their art. But maybe the reason audiences love elusive artists so much is because of the potential mystery of a new sound or artistic direction they’ll go in. And that uncertainty keeps people interested and wondering what’s going to happen next.

It seems that the more social media posting becomes a necessity to market music, the more artists are reluctant. The demands of constantly marketing your art on social media is exhausting, especially when all an artist wants to do is release music for people to hear. And there’s some confusion when an artist can just release music without a lot of marketing or promotion, and it’s still booming. There seems to be this romance of life before the social media renaissance, and artists were able to put out a record, go on tour, and weren’t asked to constantly promote themselves via viral internet trends. .

A few weeks ago, a TikTok video made the rounds of the pop singer Halsey stating that she has a new song she wants to release, but her record label is forcing her to create TikTok content so the song can be a viral hit before it ever gets streamed. In the video, she expresses her frustration with her record label and insists that all she wants to do is release the song. And as an audience, you can see the exhaustion in his eyes and you can really feel that times have changed in this digital landscape. It almost seems like there’s little demand for real art, and all the label wants from artists is to add flame to the internet fire.

It is also essential to know that artists who play the social media game can effectively market their music in digital spaces. Both Lil Nas X and Doja Cat are incredibly popular due to their clever and successful tactics of marketing their music on TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms. They can generate buzz for a music release long before the music is finished, which is a skill few artists possess today. And at the same time, they can release unique and very personal music that resonates with audiences around the world. But this method of constant content creation isn’t for all artists, and we as an audience shouldn’t demand it.

Is there a clear solution to this problem of burnt-out artists in an ever-changing industry that demands constant content creation? No. But hopefully the content creation bubble will eventually burst and the artist’s elusive and mysterious formula will one day be the desired method.

As long as there is a demand for new music, new marketing tactics and tools will always be in demand, especially in times when an artist’s job is to make more money for the label. However, there is hope for a future where the music industry believes in artists and trusts their vision, allowing them to let their art speak for itself.

After all, as audiences, we let the music speak for ourselves when we can’t find the right words to say. Whether we are sad, angry or in love, a song can express our emotions louder than our voice. And we should respect artists who don’t want to talk as much as they want to sing.

Photo credit: Adam Blyweiss


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