It’s no exaggeration to say that when it was announced that Frank Ocean would be headlining the final night of Coachella 2023’s first weekend, fans went feral with excitement. Having not performed since 2017, obsessive groupies and fringe appreciators alike gathered around the main stage and waited in anticipation for the Blonde artist.
Sadly, it’s also no exaggeration to say that Ocean’s first major performance in six years was a colossal flop. And while singers are not superhumans—and sometimes things go wrong and they shouldn’t be vilified for it—it’s indisputable that Ocean’s set was not only incredibly disappointing, it was a stark reminder that not all artists care to put on the best show possible.
So, before we get into the internet’s extreme reactions to the performance, let’s run through some of the most significant criticisms and problems that occurred during the American singer’s hour-long set.
Well, for starters, Ocean began his show over an hour late. And while this usually wouldn’t be a cardinal offence considering so many other performers have done the same before, it was what came next that really bothered the audience.
According to Insider, “when the show finally began, the audience was greeted with a procession of men in hoodies, silently marching back and forth.” Crowds were left to guess which one could be Ocean, or if he was even there at all.
The main stage had been transformed into one huge screen. The performer and his band were largely invisible to the crowd and when the camera did show him, it was often the back of his head, or of a face obscured by shadows. Safe to say, actual visibility of the ‘Thinkin Bout You’ singer was practically nonexistent.
What followed was an amalgamation of snippets of classic hits, confused and erratic remixes and a bizarrely-timed DJ set mid-way through the show. The audience began to dissipate, with some distraught fans leaving before the end of Ocean’s set. The ones who stayed watched mystified by what was actually happening—and incredibly confused as to why the singer was giving such a half-arsed performance.
On top of this, Ocean would randomly leave the stage, returning a few minutes later only to soon afterwards disappear again? The entire event felt like the end credits to Ocean’s once-blossoming career. Zero audience participation and zero magic—the reverse of what you expect from a festival like Coachella.
Definitely safe to say that some people are questioning whether or not Ocean refused to let his set be streamed on YouTube because he knew beforehand how much of a fever dream it was going to be.
With fans overtly distraught and upset about the lacklustre performance, one music event-centric Twitter page posted insight into what was potentially happening backstage.
On 17 April, one day after Ocean’s performance, an account named @TheFestivalOwl shared this statement: “I’ve been speaking with sources about exactly what transpired and how things went so far downhill Sunday for #FrankOcean + #Coachella…so here you go. The stage production was supposed to (and did) contain an ice rink that was constructed and ready to go.”
It continued: “Frank decided at the last minute that he no longer wanted it at all. All of the people walking around him at the start of the performance were actually ice skaters, had been practising for weeks, and were supposed to be skating as part of the production. Coachella had to deconstruct the approved stage (that had been planned and signed off on for months in advance) + melt the entire ice rink and then set it up how Frank decided today with no warning. Which is what you ended up seeing, and caused the hour-long delay.”
And finally, the statement concluded: “Frank also personally pulled the plug at the last second on the live stream which left a very sour taste in many inside Coachella mouths. Ultimately, and I quote — “It just didn’t seem like he wanted to be there but was obligated to be. Everything (including him) fell apart at the last minute. Don’t expect to see any coverage from the festival about the set. Something that is unprecedented in the history of Coachella. The relationship is not in a good place right now.”
While fans had already been lamenting about the performance online, this alleged insight pushed people completely over the edge—and quite rightly.
Some users did initially sympathise with the artist, with one individual sharing on TikTok: “I thought that maybe he wasn’t ready to come back yet because he’s still grieving the loss of his brother and maybe this was just too soon.” However, the alleged ice-skating rink debacle has now left a sour taste.
There have been some attempts to try and disrupt the negative discourse. Most notably, statements began being released stating that Ocean had hurt his ankle days before the event and that’s why the production changed so drastically last minute. However, from what can be seen in the comments section, fans didn’t particularly take to this idea and began labelling it a PR scheme rather than the truth.
SCREENSHOT was approached by independent talent agency Huxley, which represents Ocean among other celebrities, and informed that the singer did indeed suffer an injury to his ankle prior to his performance, which ultimately impacted the production execution. The agency also stated that the onstage performers had been wearing custom Prada and that one of the most special guests featured in Ocean’s show was none other than the infamous green robot baby the artist carried around at the 2021 Met Gala.
It should be noted that Huxley also stated that the Coachella organisers loved the show and had no immediate issues or concerns.
It’s still not known whether or not the ‘Novacane’ singer will participate in weekend two of Coachella. And while Ocean’s return to the main stage could’ve been one of the most monumental festival moments of all time (similarly to the iconic Beychella), it turned out to be the complete opposite.