Review: Frank Ocean’s controversial 2023 Coachella performance deserves to be controversial


Photo credit: Rose Sarner

Backup dancers walk out on to the stage for Frank Ocean’s performance. All of the backup dancers were set to ice skate around the stage; however, at the last minute, Ocean chose to change the entire set.

By Rose Sarner, Culture Editor

“OK, Seriously, What Was Frank Ocean’s Deal at Coachella?,” Frank Ocean’s Coachella 2023 set was a beautiful disaster” and  “Frank Ocean Dropping Out of Coachella Cost the Festival Millions” were just some of the headlines that surfaced on the internet after Frank Ocean’s 2023 Coachella performance. 

Frank Ocean was announced to headline the last night of Coachella, marking his first performance in nearly six years — so you could imagine how excited my friends and I were. After leaving the previous set to secure a close spot at Ocean’s performance, we arrived and soon realized there was no point in getting there early.

I looked forward, to the right and to the left just to see people surrounding the stage from all sides. I was overwhelmed. I had never seen that many people in my life. I quickly grabbed my two friends, and we began pushing ourselves forward into the crowd, hoping to get closer. We were directly in the middle of everything, yet not close at all. I couldn’t see anything and was arm-to-arm with everyone. 

Our plan was to watch the first three songs from this spot and then move to find an area with more space. However, Ocean did not go on until an hour later. We were standing there, legs aching and mouths dehydrated for over an hour. Finally, “Novacane,” my favorite Ocean song, began playing. The song started as people began walking out on stage and into a tiny box. What I thought were engaging dancers quickly became individuals that just walked around in a square in the box for the entire set. With Ocean nowhere to be seen, the music kept playing. Shortly after, Ocean was seen on the screen backstage singing, not yet on stage. You can imagine my frustration. 

News sources revealed that Ocean was allegedly suffering from a leg injury, and at the last minute before his performance, he decided to change the entire set design. From what was supposed to be a giant ice rink across the entire stage with skilled hockey players and Olympians quickly turned into a small box with individuals walking in it.

Ocean’s new adapted set was not engaging, did not enhance his set and just made everything more chaotic. What could have been backup dancers moving around the stage encouraging excitement from the audience were just individuals taking up space that no one could see nor understand.

After the first song, Ocean shared why he decided Coachella would be his first live performance in six years. After his brother passed away a few years ago, Ocean reflected on their experience being at the festival together and how this was his brother’s favorite event.

Therefore, the next few songs were slower and felt extremely raw and emotional. During the second song, Ocean came out on stage and sat down on the piano. The songs that followed were slow and soft with beautiful ballads and vocals. While Ocean indeed was seated for much of the performance, during the DJ segment, he got up and walked around the stage for a few minutes. 

Throughout his performance, the giant screens showed re-recorded clips of Ocean’s music videos, which was not creative and did not help me see Ocean on stage, as I was extremely far back. I could watch these videos at my house or on my phone anywhere. Ocean had an incredible opportunity to show audience members new videos, add light effects or just simply be present on stage to help audience members stay engaged, but he didn’t. 

Within 10 minutes of his performance, my friends and I walked back out to the shuttles. It was too crowded, not exciting enough and we were exhausted. I later heard Ocean did not move around the entire time he was on stage, and it was extremely hard to see anything throughout the performance.

Though his performance was not engaging or exciting, there is no doubt that Ocean is an extremely talented artist. From his range of vocals to his fun songs, this performance did respark my interest in Ocean’s music. Despite not loving the entire set and show, I have grown a deeper appreciation for Ocean’s songs and now shuffle Frank Ocean Radio on Spotify every time I get in the car or have a chance to listen to music.  

  • Music
  • Lighting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact


Frank Ocean’s controversial 2023 Coachella headline show deserves the negative feedback it received after starting over a hour late, ending his show quickly and not delivering an exciting set. Though Ocean’s performance did not live up to his talent, it does not take away from his vocals and incredible songs.