“Self Control” by Frank Ocean is a melancholic exploration of unfulfilled love and personal restraint. It stages the heart-wrenching dialogue of longing and resignation between two individuals caught in the push and pull of their romantic inclinations.
The opening lines set the scene of a poolside conversation, setting a relaxed but somewhat tense atmosphere. Frank mentions his inability to offer the desired appeal to his interest, possibly hinting at emotional barriers or simply timing. Phrases like “Could I make it shive last night?” utilize AAVE (African American Vernacular English) ‘shive’ referring to the strong emotional reaction or goosebumps, indicating a missed romantic opportunity.
“I’ll be the boyfriend in your wet dreams tonight” uncovers Frank’s yearning for intimacy that’s only imagined, not actualized. The line “Noses on a rail, little virgin wears the white” suggests an air of innocence broken, possibly by substance use or sensual pursuits.
The lyric “You cut your hair, but you used to live a blonded life” is a metaphorical line indicating a change in personality. This was likely inspired by Frank’s own transformation, as his album was called “Blonde,” and he was known to bleach his hair. It’s a call to a past version that possibly was more daring or free.
When he croons “Keep a place for me, for me / I’ll sleep between y’ll, it’s nothing”, there’s a strong sense of entreaty, suggesting an emotional constraint in their relationship where Frank occupies a space but isn’t the primary focus. Here again, the context of unrequited feelings and longing resonates.
Frank uses lyrical brilliance to describe heartache in “And I came to visit ’cause you see me like a UFO” – expressing how he feels like an alien, a rare and misunderstood presence in his interest’s life. The term “self-control” comes to hit hard when he admits that being around has led them to exercise restraint in their feelings – a tragic reality of their bond.
Towards the end, “I know you gotta leave, leave, take down some summer time” reflects acceptance of the end of their fleeting summertime romance. Frank acknowledges that his interest has someone else coming into their life and he needs to let go. “You’re spitting game, know you got it”, is street talk for flirting successfully, and signifies he recognizes their ability to move on effortlessly – a finish that leaves us with a bitter-sweet aftertaste of this lyrical masterpiece.