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What’s the Controversy Surrounding Frank Ocean’s Coachella Set?

Last Sunday, Frank Ocean’s first live performance in over six years had him closing out Coachella’s first weekend. Fans’ expectations may have been running unreasonably high given the long absence, but as soon as Ocean left the stage, his set quickly blew up online—for all the wrong reasons.

Audience members who had waited so long since Ocean’s set was canceled in 2020, who had spent hundreds to attend the festival, and some of whom had traveled from across the globe witnessed an at-times bizarre, mostly unorganized spectacle.

There were warning signs from the very beginning. Hours before Ocean took the stage, Coachella announced that his was the only set (besides Bjork’s) that would not be livestreamed. There was no merchandise for sale, forcing vendors to make signs that read “No Frank Ocean Merch” to stop fans from asking. And lastly, he was an hour late for a performance that lasted all of thirty minutes.

When Ocean finally took the stage, most of it was covered by a massive screen with visuals.

The set list consisted mainly of remixes, some of which were pre-recorded tracks that Ocean just danced along to. At one point, DJ Crystal Mess took over, performing a 6-song DJ set.

After a cover of Aaliyah’s “At Your Best (You Are Love),” the show was abruptly cut off. In the many videos circulating, Ocean tells the audience, “Guys I’m being told it’s curfew so that’s the end of the show. Thank you very much.”

Ocean’s Coachella set has quickly become infamous, with fans venting their disappointment online. The day afterwards, two different explanations emerged from anonymous sources, both of which describe a last-minute complete overhaul of the planned stage production. There was originally supposed to be an ice rink on stage with choreographed performers skating around Ocean. This was allegedly dismantled on Sunday—mere hours before Ocean’s set.

Where the two explanations diverge is on the reason why. According to The Festive Owl (with basic facts confirmed by Variety), Ocean just changed his mind about the ice rink on the day of and forced Coachella to deconstruct and melt it.

The other explanation, per Rolling Stone, maintains that the production was changed because of an ankle injury Ocean had sustained the week before. While this would explain why he was sitting for a large part of his set, it doesn’t quite explain why the changes were so last-minute.

In the end, it’s all speculation, as Ocean himself has yet to address the criticism—though that is likely to change soon. Since it was only the first weekend of Coachella, Ocean is still scheduled to close out the festival again next Sunday.

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