And now, a gritty detour into the world of how pop songs actually get made, and how the people who really drive the Top 40 creative process get paid. This morning, the internet turned up a track that features an unheard recording by nu-R&B crooner Frank Ocean, except the song, “PDA,” was actually released in 2009 on the Backstreet Boys’ last attempt at a comeback album, This Is Us. We don’t know for sure, but the chances are that this is a reference track Ocean penned and recorded for the boys from Orlando before he became the sensitive R&B progressive we all know him as today.
It’s a well-known fact that before he took the name Frank Ocean, he was Lonny Breaux, who spent his days ghostwriting pop tunes for artists like Justin Bieber and John Legend. But now that Ocean is an Odd Future cohort who’s found the sweet spot between critical respectability and mainstream attention, it’s disarming to hear him sing a by-the-numbers pop song, a track so bland that it made a Backstreet Boys record.
While “PDA” isn’t a disaster, it’s a far cry from compelling, introspective material like “Songs for Women” and “Thinking About You,” songs that, while they still fit within the mold of R&B as we know it, establish Ocean as a singular figure in it, at least far as image is concerned. How many other singers do you know who run around in a music video in a Kimono and Jordans? Maybe the lesson here is that, for a paycheck, no one is above writing a song about making out at H&R Block, with chorus that goes, “Your PDA/I want your PDA.” Yep.
Check out the song here.