Home Music Music Lists

9 Great Songs You Didn’t Know Frank Ocean Wrote

Hear tracks ‘Blonde’ singer-songwriter penned for Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and other stars

Frank Ocean Songs You Didnt know he wrote

Long before his solo career took off, Frank Ocean penned songs for Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and other stars.

Kevin Scanlon/The New York Times/Redux

Long before Blonde, or even before Frank Ocean started to earn notice for his work with the rap collective Odd Future, he was working as a professional songwriter in L.A. "I had a problem listening to anybody," he told the New York Times Magazine in 2013. "I had a problem listening to A&Rs telling me how a song was supposed to sound, or what this artist's vibe was." But the work offered a means of support for a time, as Ocean placed tracks with Brandy, Justin Bieber and others. 

Much of the material Ocean wrote during this period, including his versions of Brandy's "Scared and Beautiful" and John Legend's "Quickly," eventually found its way online in a release titled The Lonny Breaux Collection. Several of these songs, especially collaborations with the production duo Midi Mafia, are still among Ocean's strongest records: "Miss You So," which Conor Maynard later released, and "No Bonnie" rival the intense yearning of his best solo tracks.

After Ocean released the Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape in 2011, he made sudden leaps into the superstar sphere – penning tunes for Beyoncé, singing hooks on Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. These days, he seems to write less for other artists, though he made an exception to help James Blake with The Colour in Anything earlier this year. Below we round up some of Ocean's notable writing credits.

Play video

Brandy, “Scared of Beautiful” (2012)

Brandy picked another Ocean co-write to appear on her Two Eleven album. "He had the song for a while and when I heard it, it really just spoke to me," Brandy told Rap-Up. "He’s such a brilliant writer. He’s a poet and I love that about Frank Ocean. For him to write such a beautiful song and me get a chance to sing on it was a plus for me, such a blessing. So glad the world knows about him."

Play video

Alicia Keys, “One Thing” (2012)

Ocean's star rose rapidly in songwriting circles after he started putting out his own music. Alicia Keys recruited huge names to help her craft the Girl on Fire album: Babyface, Dr. Dre, Jeff Bhasker and Rodney Jerkins. In the midst of these titans, Ocean managed to place a song he wrote with Keys and Channel Orange producer Malay. Keys wasn't planning to write when she met Ocean. "We were just gonna hang out and talk and next thing we knew I was like, 'But I have these chords,'" she told MTV.

Play video

James Blake, “My Willing Heart” (2016)

Though Ocean has appeared on other artists' albums since Channel Orange, his writing credits have been few and far between. But he broke this rule to work with James Blake on "My Willing Heart," which appeared on The Colour in Anything. According to Blake, Ocean encouraged him to manipulate his vocals on the track. "I remember feeling kind of justified by someone of that caliber of songwriting saying, 'Well, actually, I think you should do this because it works,'" he told EW. "I'd say he's one of the best lyricists around." Blake also interpolated Ocean's song "Godspeed" later on his album.

Show Comments