After reading The New Yorker‘s “City of Women” article and watching Rebecca Solnit’s speech at Columbia University, I was compelled to examine the my own biases. I had never considered how the vast majority of streets and monuments in the United States are dedicated to men, and Solnit’s work led me to examine my Capstone project for personal biases.
For my Capstone, I chose to write a cohesive, multidimensional album review of Frank Ocean’s Blonde in order to assess his significance in the contemporary music scene. The first potential space for bias I discovered should have been obvious to me when I started this project: I am a heterosexual white male, while Frank Ocean is black and bisexual. My upbringing and identity are substantially different from Ocean’s, and I need to make sure that I don’t overreach in my interpretation of his music. I have not experienced the oppression, stemming from my race or my sexual identity, that Frank Ocean has had to face. Therefore, I must acknowledge that while there are parts of his work that I can respect and admire, I cannot fully appreciate the gravity behind these elements.
Additionally, I am an avid fan of Frank Ocean’s work. I could easily write a glowing review that is informed by my opinions and the mostly positive critical reception the album received. However, in order to write an accessible and original review, I must put aside my personal associations with the album and limit the amount of influence that music critics have on my work.
I must also consider how labeling Frank Ocean can lead to narrow interpretations of his work. For example, in many of the Genius.com lyric annotations of Blonde, the contributors assume that Ocean’s romantic partner in a given song must be male. I included a screenshot of an annotation from the site below. If we choose to make this assumption about Ocean’s intentions, though, we lose the nuance in the lyrics. He may have deliberately left any mention of gender out of the song, thus expanding the appeal of the music. If a story can resonate with listeners regardless of their respective sexual identities, then Ocean can connect with a wider audience.