Frank Ocean's latest single 'Chanel' is, unsurprisingly, characteristically great. It continues the vignette-laden approach of Blond, layering vivid autobiographical images one after another to serve a mood rather than a single narrative.

Ocean only needs a few lines to tell a story, and while he allows these stories to drift gently through Blond, they are wound tighter in 'Chanel'. The song eventually falls into Ocean's typically languid pace, but for a stretch, you can feel the pressure on Ocean. He hastily layers details of his relationships, encounters with police, drug abuse, money, and fame atop one another, each fitting together while each offering its own story, its own world.

Ocean's unique gift is that he understands each facet of his life from both perspectives. "I see both sides like Chanel," he repeats, his falsetto threatening a to crack at the "see." It's at that breaking point where the listener can feel his capacity for sympathy is fit to burst; he understands the world and all its complications in ways that others simply don't. It's his gift, and his burden.

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It's been disconcerting to see this gift wielded in service of an advertisement for a luxury brand. Just a few days after Ocean released 'Chanel', Chanel released ads on Instagram captioned, "We see both sides like Frank Ocean." Which, okay, yeah, we've seen brands and artists link up before. But making an ad out of this particular song, with this particular artist, leaves a particularly sour taste.

The most interesting part of 'Chanel' is that Ocean demonstrates that any one experience has more than "two sides." For example, in his run-in with the police, Ocean paints the policeman as condescending and abusive, saying, "12 treat a n****a like he 12/How you looking up to me and talking down?" He may recognise both sides of the issue of relations between police and the black community, but this also doesn't inherently validate both sides. Each side is nuanced, and each nuance gives way to more sides.

These sides give way to exponentially more sides on the bridge when Ocean sings, "It's really you on my mind." This can be heard as a typical profession of love, but also as describing Ocean's ability to inhabit other perspectives. His first-person observations can be derived from any number of second-person "you's." His perspective, then, may be prismatic, showing the infinite views within one story, while also revealing the potential for endless views to be unified.

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To make a couple of Instagram ads out of such an ambiguous, complex, intimate song is a crass reduction and misconstruction of its meanings. 'Chanel' conveys difficult politics regarding race relations and sexuality, which I doubt that Chanel has any opinion towards. Its use of 'Chanel' is not an endorsement of its views, merely an adoption of its cool. Chanel can co-opt Ocean's popularity and woke Tumblr aesthetic without his attending humanity and complexity. Frankly (pun intended, I'm sorry), Chanel probably does not see things like Frank Ocean. Nor does it have to; appropriation allows for the powerful to pluck what they please from the less powerful, without consequence.

I can only speculate what Ocean's involvement is in the Chanel ads, or how he feels with regards to them. (Is it legal to make an ad out of someone's lyrics without their permission? Idk). Ocean's materialism and love for luxury brands sometimes sit uncomfortably alongside his fiercely independent artistry. On one hand, you could imagine him embracing being endorsed by a brand he name-checks and probably likes; on the other, he may be disappointed at seeing his art manipulated for commercial purposes.

I don't know, it's complicated. As one contemporary philosopher often says, "Gotta hear both sides."