Does Frank Ocean's album 'Endless' contain a shady dig at Apple on "Device Control?"
Two days before Frank Ocean released his Endless livestream on Apple Music, Kanye West pulled out his (presumed) iPhone on July 30 to write a fury of tweets about the state of music streaming exclusivity, directing this Twitter storm at Apple's Tim Cook.
"Fuck all this dick swinging contest," he wrote. "Let the kids have the music."
It seems Frank Ocean made his own jab at the tech company with the release of Endless — albeit in a much more artistic, less crass fashion.
Before diving into its lush, high-minded ambient R&B, Ocean's album starts on an odd foot, name-dropping the name of very company sponsoring its live stream.
The first track "Device Control," sounds like creepy, 1984-themed pro-Apple propaganda: "With this Apple appliance, you can capture live videos/ Still motion pictures shot at high frequency/ Blurring, blurring the line between still and motion." It later discusses the advanced features of similar Sony and Samsung devices, seemingly mocking the epic way all three companies try to brand their products. The album closes with an even longer version of the same track. The shade is disarming, poignant and all too real.
It's unclear what specific point Ocean is trying to make, but the robotic voice highlights a definite absurdity surrounding society's infatuation with today's tech giants and users' need for constant communication in the digital age.
The song actually belongs to German photographer and producer Wolfgang Tillmans who created "Device Control" for his upcoming EP with the same title, set for release on Sept. 16, Complex reported. Endless samples a 20-second portion for its intro and the album ends with the full 7-minute, 30-second version, which Tillman was elated to hear when Ocean's album dropped. He gushed about it in a lengthy Instagram post, detailing how they connected.
Pitchfork caught up with Tillman Friday and asked him to elaborate on the type of commentary the track is intending to make.
"The absurdity of living life through constantly depicting and broadcasting it is so funny when looked at in the serious words of the phone manufacturers," Tillmans said. "As if any of it matters, and at the same time we are all doing it to varying degrees."
If Ocean interprets the lyrics similarly, it amounts to an extremely self-aware moment on the album, and an extremely side-eyed look at Apple's and its mission to "think different." If nothing else it serves as a multilayered conversation-starter on what priorities this generation places on technology. It's definitely not the only conversation Ocean's fascinating Endless will start.