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Why Frank Ocean's long-anticipated Coachella performance was a mixed bag

A large digital screen at an outdoor music festival shows a close-up of a man's face with the silhouette of a crowd in front of it.
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun
USA TODAY Network via Reuters
Frank Ocean is seen on the display screen during his headlining set on the Coachella stage Sunday during the festival's opening weekend.

The elusive R&B star Frank Ocean, known for avoiding the spotlight, performed on the largest stage at Coachella on Sunday night.

Ocean was a headliner this weekend alongside Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK — forming one of the most diverse line-ups in the music festival's history. In his set, Ocean performed reworked versions of some of his most iconic songs, like debut hit "Novacane," "White Ferrari" and "Bad Religion," giving a rock or electronic spin to fan favorites.

Ocean's show was long-anticipated, in part because the singer-songwriter was scheduled to headline at Coachella in 2020 when the music festival was postponed due to COVID. There was also some suspense that Ocean may use the platform to debut new music like some artists have in the past. While that was not the case, Ocean did hint at the possibility of a new album.

"I want to talk about why we're here because it's not because of a new album, it's because — not that there's not a new album," Ocean said. As the crowd cheered in excitement, he clarified: "But it's not right now."

Fans had other disappointments in the set, which closed out the opening weekend of Coachella. Ocean, who performs live sparingly, came onto the stage late and had to cut his performance short because of "curfew," he told the audience. His show was also not streamed online, unlike other performances.

Still, the mounting hype over a possible new album shows Ocean fans still have an appetite for more music — regardless of the wait. The singer-songwriter has not released new songs since his singles"Dear April" and "Cayendo" in 2020. His last album, called Blonde, dates back even further, to 2016. That album was an immediate hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in the week it was released.

On the biggest stage that Coachella has to offer, Ocean also used the opportunity to pay homage to his younger brother, Ryan Breaux, who diedin a car accident in 2020. "My brother and I came to this festival a lot," he said on Sunday night. "I know he would have been so excited to be here with all of us."

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.