Chanel | Sexual Duality

An analysis of Frank Ocean’s song “Chanel”, released as a single in March 2017.

Chanel is a 2017 song by American singer Frank Ocean. It was released as a single in March. It is the first solo track by Frank Ocean since the release of his projects Blonde and Endless in August 2016.
Chanel had a huge impact at its release, mainly because of its themes of sexuality. It has been hailed as a bisexual anthem by some.

Chanel

The title of the song is derived from the french fashion company ”Chanel”. The Chanel logo consists of two Cs facing in opposite directions. The duality of the Chanel logo is a symbol of sexual duality, of being sexually attracted to both sexes.

Although the song has been seen as an assertion of Ocean’s bisexuality, it is rather an exploration of sexual fluidity. Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time. “Sexual Duality” is the concept that we all experience attractions to both sexes at some points in our life. Some people are more sexually fluid, while others are less so, but the degree to which a person is sexually fluid is a separate variable that operates alongside sexual orientation. Thus Frank Ocean may not identify as bisexual, though he has acknowledge same-sex attraction. Ocean does not want to take on a label or be put in a stereotype.

The opening line of the song, ”My guy pretty like a girl, and he got fight stories to tell. I see both sides like Chanel, see on both sides like Chanel”, is sung over a soft piano, with some rhythmic drumming and bass. Not much is added to the song in terms of instruments, only some gentle synths. Chanel is emotional, both in its sound and in its lyrics. Ocean’s delicate and somewhat anxious voice is the main focus of the song. The instruments are kept mellow, creating an ambient soundscape.

The song is loaded with references: to police racism, to religion, to sex, to cars, to drugs, to music, and more. But as a red thread within the ambiguous lyrics and impressive rhyme scheme, is the theme of duality, masculinity and sexuality.

Ocean sings of the duality of fame, how it is like a double edged knife. He explores how success does not equal happiness. He is worshipped and adored, referring to his fans as a cult, while at the same time the police talks down to him because of his skin colour.

In the end of the song, Ocean is musing on his economical excess and opulence. Materialistically, he has more than he could ever need, but emotionally he is lacking someone who truly cares for him. It is the duality of the material and the existential, the exorbitant and the essential.

Chanel could be on the soundtrack of ”Moonlight”, the 2016 film and Oscar Best Picture winner, since it explores the same themes of masculinity, sexuality, and stereotypes. The song mirrors the life of Chiron in the film very well. A similar tough outside-soft inside struggle is involved. Chiron could be singing the bridge, ”It’s really you on my mind” as he is driving his fancy car with his golden teeth, on his way to meet Kevin. Moonlight and Chanel are two highly important and relevant pieces of art, both with a crucial message to convey.

In the moonlight, black boys look blue, and they see both sides like Chanel.

Chanel is a bold and honest song. It smashes the stereotypes of African-American hip-hop artists. It breaks the gender norms of masculinity and femininity. It shows us that, beyond the facade of possessions, Chanel-clothes and attitudes, there is a vulnerable person with real, complex feelings and desires. Chanel a plea for empathy and emotional understanding. It emphasizes the importance of accepting yourself, of being who you are and having courage to express your true self.