Frank Ocean is recognised for his poetic lyricism, addressing themes of love, loss, and nostalgia. With a catalogue of sad songs to his name, for many people, Frank Ocean is the go-to artist when looking for comfort and consolation, or a good excuse to cry.
This list will introduce you to some of the saddest Frank Ocean songs, including several tracks from his stunning album Blond as well as other individual releases. The list will hopefully provide you with some extra context to dig into the meaning behind these beautifully melancholic tracks.
Frank Ocean’s song ‘Wiseman’ was originally written for the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. Tarantino praised the song, but said ‘there just wasn’t a scene for it’ in the film. Although it wasn’t used in the film, thankfully Frank shared it anyway.
The mysterious and powerful imagery in the track undoubtedly captures some of the chaos and horror of Django Unchained. The meaning of the ambiguous lyrics isn’t immediately clear, but the melancholic feeling of the song is unmissable.
On the one hand, the song seems to lament, ‘no righteous man exists / strong man don’t exist/ no undying man exists.’ However, Frank ultimately seems to assert the equality of all people, concluding ‘just flesh and blood exist.’
A lesser known Frank Ocean song that is both melancholic and profound.
The floaty ‘Higgs’ is a stripped back, acoustic song from Endless, and is popular amongst Frank Ocean’s die-hard fan base.
The track reflects the sort of nostalgia that Frank Ocean does so well, with the sparse acoustic guitar and reverb-laden meandering vocals creating a strangely empty feeling.
The lyrics seem to reflect positively on a past relationship, however, an ominous feeling rises to the surface in lines like ‘if acts of God break us apart / at least we did ours’ and the final line, ‘turn back, turn back / if you’ve never been in love.’
A strange, lonely-feeling track that is definitely amongst the saddest Frank Ocean songs.
9. White Ferrari
‘White Ferrari’ typifies the oblique and mysterious mood of Frank Ocean’s Blond album. From the opening line ‘bad luck to talk on these rides’ a slightly ominous and melancholic atmosphere is created.
The song almost definitely references the melody in The Beatles’ song ‘Here, There, and Everywhere’ on the line ‘ I care for you still and I will forever / that was my part of the deal, honest.’ However, ‘White Ferrari’ expresses quite a different sentiment. While ‘Here There, and Everywhere’ is naive and optimistic, ‘White Ferrari’ is nostalgic, jumbled, and regretful.
A classic Frank Ocean song that brilliantly captures feelings of sadness and nostalgia.
8. Pyrite (Fools Gold)
Frank Ocean dropped ‘Pyrite’ on Soundcloud in 2010, and the song reflects the early days of his songwriting. The track is one of his most musically simple releases ever, with a simple acoustic guitar accompanying his vocals.
As the title suggests, the song reflects on a relationship that isn’t what it appears to be on the surface. The lyrics hark back to a time when Frank’s lyricism was more direct. It may not be quite as poetic as his later tracks, but the signs of his emerging genius are all there.
The sentiment of the song is captured in the line, ‘I know when it’s real, I know how to tell / I know the difference between what you say and how you feel.’
7. Strawberry Swing
‘Strawberry Swing’ is a rework of the Coldplay song by the same name, and comes from Frank Ocean’s 2011 Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape.
The song is a pure nostalgia trip, and ends with the apocalyptic scene, ‘spaceships are lifting off of a dying world / and millions are left behind while the sky burns / there wasn’t room for you and I, only you, goodbye.’
Although it might seem a little odd for Frank Ocean to cover a Coldplay track, the song’s heavily nostalgic vibe makes it the perfect fit for the record, and an important track in the development of Frank’s music.
6. Slide on Me
‘Slide on Me’ comes from Frank Ocean’s 2016 album Endless. The song’s lyrics are ambiguous, but the mood is unmistakably downtempo.
The simple, lofi drum beat and acoustic guitar have a melancholic, rain-against-the-window feel. The lyrics, meanwhile, seem to reflect on a person – perhaps someone from Frank’s past – who may be lost or struggling.
The song has the atmosphere of looking back with a sense of dislocation and sadness. A little-known Frank Ocean track that creates a powerfully melancholic mood.
‘Godspeed’ is one the most moving songs that Frank Ocean has ever released. The song’s lyrics are ambiguous at times, but it is clear that it reflects on the end of a relationship.
In many ways, ‘Godspeed’ is about letting go. The song expresses a lot of grief and sadness, combined with a powerful sense of optimism and love, which is directed towards the object of Frank’s affection.
Not all listeners notice, but the song is laden with Christian and biblical imagery. This includes the organ and gospel choir vocals, and many of the lyrics including ‘mountains you won’t move’ and the poetically ambiguous ‘the table is prepared for you.’
A beautiful and mysterious song that, despite its message of love, is definitely amongst the saddest Frank Ocean songs.
4. Self Control
One of Frank Ocean’s all-time best songs, ‘Self Control’ is a deeply evocative track that touches upon youth, nostalgia, and regret.
The track is beautifully built up with electric guitar layers, as it evolves through a series of different moods – from the tender opening, the warm and comforting bridge, to the cinematic and stirring culmination of the song.
Coming from Frank’s legendary 2016 Blond album, ‘Self Control’ is amongst the artist’s most beautiful and saddest songs.
‘Seigfriend’ is one of the most deeply atmospheric songs from Frank Ocean’s album Blond. The song’s ambient, beatless atmosphere creates a slowly-mounting tension that culminates in the desperate and searching refrain, ‘I’d do anything for you / in the dark.’
The song seems to reflect on the theme of ‘settling’ and discontentment, via psychedelic and spiritual musings about life’s purpose. The song’s narrative seems to follow Frank from reflecting on a life that’s too comfortable, into a stage of deep reflection, and finally to a state of longing and regret.
What makes the song so sad is that after all the spiritual reflection, it feels that Frank is ultimately still preoccupied by a sense of longing and desperation for connection with a person who is out of reach.
The track is deeply moving, and without a doubt, one of Frank Ocean’s saddest songs.
‘Cayendo’ and ‘Dear April’ are the two tracks that comprised Frank Ocean’s 2020 double A side release. If ‘Dear April’ is the saddest Frank Ocean song, then ‘Cayendo’ is certainly a contender for second place.
Released during lockdown, the two tracks reflect something of the introspection that was going on for many people at that time. ‘Cayendo,’ which is Spanish for ‘falling,’ is sung half in Spanish. Accompanied by a simple, sparse guitar part, the song is delicate and raw.
The lyrics display a striking vulnerability as Frank alludes to unrequited love: ‘you stood me up, you lay me down / you know too much, I can’t be proud / I still really, really love you, yes, I do.’
1. Dear April
‘Dear April’ may well be the saddest Frank Ocean song of the lot. From the opening chord, the song’s melancholic stillness is palpable. The song speaks of finding solace and connection in a stranger who changes everything.
However, in the song it becomes clear that that connection has had to change – or, more likely, end for good – as lines like the following suggest: ‘and what we had can’t be the same now / but you will make something / I’ll take you through.’
A searingly sad song and a total-tearjerker that deserves to top the list.
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