With their songs about primary emotions like love and sadness, the Cure are in many ways a boy band. They are very easy to become infatuated with, but they are safe, and safety is a great part of their appeal. Even at their most funereal—and they once wrote a song called “The Funeral Party”—the Cure make comfort music. Compared with the volatility of punk, or the bombast of Meatloaf and Led Zeppelin, who both placed high on the charts in 1979, the Cure were subdued—they took the heat out of playing guitar. “Boys Don’t Cry” arrived in the wake of punk, but it wasn’t about anger; it was about love. It’s a simple song about a broken heart, and it sounds like a summer’s day—a summer’s day that threatens to dissolve into rain.
There are many contemporary pop musicians making music that sounds like the Cure, but Frank Ocean isn’t one of them. And yet, like Smith, Ocean is very capable of writing songs that are in thrall to pasts made more painful, and yet more perfect, by memory. His second* mixtape, released in 2011, was called “nostalgia, ULTRA.” On its ninth track, “There Will Be Tears,” Ocean sings, “I can’t be there with you, but I can dream.” The “you” of the lyric is an absent father; in the song’s verse, Ocean remembers his grandfather as “the only dad I’d ever know.” “Hide my face, hide my face, can’t let ’em see my crying,” he sings, “’cause these boys didn’t have no fathers neither.” In this song, the command that boys don’t cry feels especially cruel, bound up with a version of masculinity in which fathers must never be missed, or mourned. “You can’t miss what you ain’t had,” Ocean goes on. “Well I can, I’m sad.”
His last album channel ORANGE was so great.