July 7, 2015


Miguel on the Silly Frank Ocean "Beef": "There's Room for All Artists"

Getty Images
Getty Images

Update (July 7): Miguel has put a cap on the rudely shaken-up soda that was this "feud" with Frank Ocean. He doesn't call out the Sunday Times journalist, and seems to both take full responsibility and shrug it off as comments that genuinely weren't that serious or malicious. We still 3 Miguel; we (obviously) still <3 Frank. Here's the full pos-vibes statement, tweeted quickly after the story started making the rounds (the TL;DR version is "there's no need to compare apples to oranges, there's something out there for everyone"):

Original Story (July 6): Last night, driving home from a Fourth of July getaway, we spun Miguel's "Coffee (Fucking)." My wife has reached the conclusion that it's one of the genuinely sexiest songs in recent memory; impossible to disagree. Then we listened to Frank Ocean's "Pyramids," the 10-minute masterpiece from 2012's Channel Orange, a song I'm never not thinking about from an album I'm never not thinking about. After, we went back to the super-sweet new Miguel, Wildheart.

Such is the order of things. Artists remind you of other artists. They shuffle together. Together, simultaneously, in independent sync, they propel genres forward and create a new canon. While—in the case of Mr. Pimental and Mr. Ocean—maintaining explicitly individual brands of genius.

The media tends not to roll that way, though. There's too much love for the There Can Be Only One narrative—Biggie vs. TupacStones v. BeatlesJay or NasBeyoncĂ© or any other diva. Childish Gambino still struggles to get mainstream approval because there's already an actor/rapper who's sensitive, referential and studly; his name is Drake. We love to scream that one artist's better when both are great and we should be talking in indoor-voices.

Today's facepalm news in this arena comes in the form of some handily cherry-picked comments from a Miguel profile in England's Sunday Times. What Twitter and All the Websites want you to know is that the "Adorn" singer went here:

“I wouldn’t say [Frank Ocean and I] were friends. To be completely honest—and no disrespect to anyone—I genuinely believe that I make better music, all the way around. ... It’s interesting, but we’ll see who’s in it for the long haul. It’s like a marathon, you know?”

Aside from the beginning snippet, the Sunday Times article is restricted to subscribers. We aren't privy to the context around this quote. It's fair to imagine there was more to this comment, particularly because Ocean coincidentally walked into the London hotel where the interview was going down. The author starts babbling about Miguel's buzzed-about 2013 GRAMMY loss to Frocean in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category—in the second paragraph:

"Much was made of the fact that, while the auditorium gave Ocean a standing ovation, Miguel remained seated. Whatever their history, today they seem to be on good terms. Without hesitation, Ocean, dressed down in jeans and a—" 

End. Paywall; lame; lo siento.

If you're silly enough to make me choose, I'll say Frank Ocean—whose second studio album, Boys Don't Cry, is due this month—is in a league in which Miguel has never even thought about playing. But that's an unnecessary statement, and I wouldn't say it unless I was stoned at a barbecue and actively working to start an argument I'd quickly regret. And I don't think Miguel would be the one asking me to choose, because Miguel practices something that has only a sliver of Venn diagram overlap with Frank's. This isn't a lifelong competition; this is two artists building careers which both happen to be taking place on planet Earth. Throwing the word "better" around in regards to art is dumb. Not standing up for your own work—being too magnanimous to say something like "I genuinely believe that I make better music, all the way around"—can be dumb, too.

The problem here isn't that Miguel is randomly shit-talking. He almost certainly isn't. He—like zillions of others—has continually been corralled into a corner where he has to big himself up over a "rival" who only occupies that role because a bunch of people—many or most of whom are nothing more than casual listeners—say so. Competitiveness worms its way into art, and that's fine and healthy. But it's never as simple as "X thinks he's better than Y, wow."