When Frank Ocean‘s debut album Channel Orange dropped this summer, the artist received a slew of positive reviews. Among many great artists (like Prince), Frank was compared to the legendary singer/musician Stevie Wonder. So in a recent interview with The Guardian, Frank Ocean– and his recent coming out- came up and Stevie Wonder made a few statements that some people found problematic. Was he being homophobic (or at least, insensitive), or were his words misunderstood? The story’s inside.
First, it must be acknowledged that this was a very lengthy interview and I haven’t even made my way through it all. The Guardian has the full article and y’all should check it out when you get a chance. Stevie talks about the recent loss of great artists like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, and– of course– music. Here’s the excerpt everyone’s talking about:
“Yeah, I like Frank,” says Wonder, who sang the hook from Ocean’s No Church In The Wild to the Odd Future sensation when he met him at a party recently. The feeling is mutual: reviews of Ocean’s 2012 album, Channel Orange, drew comparisons with Wonder’s music at its most expansive…
… Wonder is aware of his impact, and of those who have picked up his progressive soul baton, such as Ocean. Was he surprised that there could, in 2012, be a furore at the revelation that a rapper might be gay?
“I think honestly, some people who think they’re gay, they’re confused,” he says. “People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond. I’m not saying all [gay people are confused]. Some people have a desire to be with the same sex. But that’s them.”
Like I said, the interview has plenty more interesting bits. It closes with this final statement from Stevie Wonder:
“I’ve never said I was a soul artist or an R&B artist,” he responds when I venture that the music he made in the 70s was a soul version of progressive rock. “They’re just labels. When you’re soul it means black, when you’re pop it means white. That’s bullshit. If it’s good, it’s good. It’s like that old Jerry Reed song: ‘When you’re hot, you’re hot, when you’re not, you’re not.’”
Read more here.
Now I first read the interview excerpts on HuffPost and the comments ranged from ‘he’s a homophobe‘ to ‘he sounds like the confused one‘ to ‘he’s totally right… what’s the big deal?‘ Someone also wrote something about how the media is now, in a way, searching for reasons and ways to label people homophobic because that’s the new ‘thing’:
Yet another “moral outrage” piece. Seems to me its a fairly reasonable position he’s taken. The horrible thought that human sexuality is far more complex and malleable than the simplistic “straight” “gay” “bi” wrecks all the do gooders out there…
Another reader replied to that one:
Technically, I guess Stevie is correct. Some people are indeed “confused” about their sexual identities. Catholic priests, evangelical preachers, and Republican politicians come to mind.
I should also say that– looking closely at the interview– it’s not entirely clear that Stevie Wonder was addressing Frank Ocean specifically. He might have been, but he never uses his name. The Guardian could have also written the interview so that the Frank Ocean topic came up right before the sexuality issue.
But even if Stevie is not talking about Frank, one could certainly take issue with this statement. While I don’t think Stevie meant harm (and I do believe that sexuality is complicated and labels often further complicate it, rather than clarify anything), I know that this idea that ‘gay people are sometimes just confused’ is dangerous. Unless of course, you then add that heterosexual people are often confused. But to say that sexual confusion is a gay issue makes it too easy for people to not accept homosexuality as a reality. If, instead, we all acknowledge that we all might be– at any point in our lives– confused or just unwilling to commit to a lable, then we make it a human issue. That’s probably the way to go, I think.
Although, you could also argue that there’s nothing confusing about it. You could say that the only reason people call it ‘confusing’ is because we live in a society that demands perfect clarification on where you stand and who you sleep with. Perhaps the confusion is a reflection of these societal demands. See? Lol, it gets complicated…
What do y’all think of Stevie Wonder‘s statements? Does he do a disservice to the GLBT community, and thus, all communities? Or is this a harmless opinion, being blown out of proportion?
UPDATE: Stevie Wonder just recently issued an apology to The Advocate for his comments. Here’s the exclusive statement.
Wonder now clarifies his comment with an exclusive statement to The Advocate, saying, “I’m sorry that my words about anyone feeling confused about their love were misunderstood. No one has been a greater advocate for the power of love in this world than I; both in my life and in my music. Clearly, love is love, between a man and a woman, a woman and a man, a woman and a woman and a man and a man. What I’m not confused about is the world needing much more love, no hate, no prejudice, no bigotry and more unity, peace and understanding. Period.”