It happened. It really did happen. Frank Ocean finally released his long-awaited follow-up to Channel Orange. Blonde, the album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry, was released on Apple Music in August. The release of the album doesn’t just signify the return of one of our most talented song-writers and vocalist though. No son, the fact that Frank Ocean finally released Blonde really just proves that when it comes to the world of music, 2016 has been a crazy year; a year full of head-turning news and gasp-inducing plot twists.
Of course from other vantage points, 2016 has either been a bummer (see: deaths, celebrities) or a raging dumpster fire (see: race, Presidential.) But speaking solely about what has transpired in music, an argument could be made that 2016 has been a massively unbelievable year. In the words of the great Kevin Garnett, “anything is possible.”
Let’s just start with the improbable return of Frank Ocean. It’s been six long years since Ocean released Channel Orange and it feels like it’s been five years since we’ve been waiting for a follow-up. A new Ocean album could have easily appeared in every “Things We Are Looking Forward to in (Insert Year Here)” article since 2013. We’ve dealt with rumors, leaks, more rumors and more leaks. To be completely honest, it was starting to feel like Channel Orange was both the beginning and end of Ocean’s music career. Instead of being fans of Ocean the musician, we would have to be resigned to following Ocean the novelist or Ocean the Calvin Klein model, neither of which are ideal substitutes for more music along the lines of “Thinking About You” or “Super Rich Kids.”
But surprise, surprise, Ocean is back – the latest improbable act of improbability to happen in music this year.
Dude, Guns n’ Roses are currently in the middle of a reunion tour. And no, it’s not Axl Rose and a bunch of dudes pretending to be Guns n’ Roses. For all intents and purposes, it is Guns n’ Roses. Slash is there. Duff is there. I mean, that’s kind of it, but still, that’s essentially Guns n’ Roses! I don’t think any band is immune from the allure and promise of riches that come with a reunion tour, but Guns n’ Roses certainly felt like the one band that could be. Slash and Axl allegedly hated each other. Just look at what Axl said in 2009, regarding a possible reunion:
“What’s clear is that one of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is. Those decisions were made a long time ago and reiterated year after year by one man.”
Axl called Slash a cancer at one point. A cancer. In most cases, that pretty much closes the door on any potential reconciliation. Yet somehow, someway, fences were mended and Guns n’ Roses are out on the road this summer on their Not in This Lifetime tour, which isn’t just a cute name, but was at one point a painful reality in terms of the likelihood of a reunion ever happening.
Of course a less dramatic reunion, albeit still a surprising one, was the grunge-era, Seattle-centric super group Temple of the Dog getting back together and heading out on a tour of their own. The band, comprised of members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, had become somewhat of a footnote in the history of grunge and seemed destined to live on via classic rock radio stations, who still play their song “Hunger Strike” once or twice a week. But again, the positives always seem to outweigh any negatives when it comes to getting the band back together for a few shows. Also, it always helps to have a reason to reunite, which Temple of the Dog do. The 30th anniversary of their lone album is at the end of September and a reissue is set to be released, meaning that the tour can wave a flag of promotion, as opposed to cash-fueled desperation. And that’s always a good thing.
A good thing is also the return of the Avalanches, who have Ocean beat by a decade when it comes to time passed in between albums. The Australian DJ collective returned this summer with their new album Wildflower, which is their incredibly long-awaited follow-up to 2000’s Since I Left You. If a new Frank Ocean album had become a ghost story we told casually around the camp fire, a new Avalanches’ album had become a full-blown myth.
2016: making the impossible seem possible.
For instance, if I told you a year ago that in the summer of 2016, Taylor Swift, yes, that Taylor Swift, would become a villain of sorts, what would your reaction be? There’s no need to think about it. Your reaction would be to dismiss it as fantasy. I wouldn’t blame you either. In 2015 it seemed like Swift could do no wrong. Everyone agreed that her album 1989 was great and everyone agreed that her relationship with Calvin Harris was adorable. Sure, the endless parade of models and celebrities she brought on stage at her various concerts got to be a little much after awhile, but Taylor Swift becoming a villain? IMPOSSIBLE.
But lest we forget, it’s 2016, the year when the impossible became possible.
Kanye West became a hero of sorts.
Wait, what’s that Kev?
The cracks in the foundation of the house that Swift built were already there. All it took was a few Snapchats to make them shine and just like that, public opinion had started to turn of the Artist Formerly Known as America’s Sweetheart. The Snapchats Heard Around the World proved to be a multi-layered assault on Swift. First there was the attack on her character and the calling out of her honesty when it came to her knowledge of the content of West’s song “Famous.” Dude, we hate liars. But even more, we hate exposed liars. Swift not only lied, but was caught lying. It wasn’t a good look for her. Yet when confronted with this, she doubled down. Who does she think she is, Tom effin’ Brady? Please. Tom Brady is a golden God.*
*Tom Brady is also innocent according to the writer and the writer’s mom
The Swift/West/Kardashian dust-up was ugly enough, but that little situation came after Swift was already dealing with questions about her character thanks to revelations from Harris that she was a co-writer of his song, “This Is What You Came For” and that she wasn’t listed as one per her request. Playing the part of a good dude, Harris went on to act as if she hadn’t been involved, which like America’s relationship with the “Shake It Off” singer, was cool with Swift until it wasn’t. Swift came off as attention-starved and petty and in both instances, the curtain was pulled back as to how Swift operates. The idea that the Taylor Swift presented on social media and at award shows and at concerts was a carefully curated character was by no means a surprise and actually, was something generally accepted as fact. Yet here we were seeing as how the sausage was made and frankly, no one wants to see that, regardless what year it is.
The year is 2016.
It’s important to remember that when I then tell you that in the summer of 2016 Third Eye Blind weren’t just relevant again, but politically relevant.
2016 is weird, man.
Third Eye Blind, best known as a quasi-rock band in the late ’90s, were booked to play a gig in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. Oddly enough, they had been asked to play in 2012, but the band declined. 2012 was thus, a perfectly normal year. In 2016 the “Semi-Charmed Life” band agreed and played a show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Front man Stephen Jenkins wasn’t just there for the free food though and used the opportunity to blast the Republican party, at one point asking the crowd to “raise your hand if you believe in science” and using their hit “Jumper” as a chance to encourage people to live the life they want and be governed by fear. Video of the show went viral and just like that, that band that sang “Graduate” were being talked about again- in present tense.
Oh, and then Smash Mouth, who like Third Eye Blind crashed onto the scene in 1997, dropped an EDM song.
Perhaps the craziest thing though is that 2016 is only 274 days old. There are 93 days left. Who knows what else can happen, what surprise album might drop or which blast from the past band might reunite. If we’ve learned anything this year it’s that yes, anything is possible in music in 2016. Heroes become villains, enemies become besties, Smash Mouth drops an EDM song.
It’s 2016, baby.
Anything is possible.
For better or worse.
Feature image: UPROXX