Frank Ocean’s name has been plastered across headlines for the past few weeks thanks to the debut of his Channel Orange album and the sexual revelation that preceded it, but Thursday night (September 6) at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, that all seemed like the distant past during his serene performance.
Just a few minutes earlier, Rihanna had hit the stage for a rowdy set with A$AP Rocky and Calvin Harris, but Ocean turned things down a few decibels for his performance. Flames lit up the VMA stage around a faux campfire, and when the smoke cleared a bit, there was Ocean sitting on a makeshift rock, with the universe illuminated on the screens behind him.
The Odd Future singer wore his usual stage getup: an all-black ensemble complemented by his favorite red-and-white bandanna. He remained seated as he began to croon “Thinkin Bout You,” from Channel Orange a cappella, with the galaxy shining brightly in the background, creating a perfectly magical moment.
There were no frills and thrills with the performance, just Ocean’s soaring vocals and an intensity that seemed to shut out everything around him. Earlier in the night, host Kevin Hart had saluted the 24-year-old — and simultaneously cracked a few jokes at his expense — recalling his decision to let the world know, via the liner notes for his album, that his first love was a man. Ocean has remained rather tight-lipped since sharing the note on his Tumblr account a few months ago, letting his music do all of the talking, and nothing changed tonight.
Celebrities on Twitter seemed to appreciate his performance, with Lady Gaga tweeting, “Watch frank ocean steal this whole show. I’m dead.”