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MTV Video Music Awards: Frank Ocean provides a stunner

September 06, 2012|By Todd Martens
  • Singer Frank Ocean performs at the MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center on Thursday.
Singer Frank Ocean performs at the MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )

Frank Ocean, sporting his trademark headband, brought “Thinkin’ Bout You," one of the unlikeliest hits of 2012, to the MTV Video Music Awards stage Thursday. This is a song that's all vocals, and delicate vocals at that.

Ocean's words seemed to disappear in the pauses between the softly strummed acoustic guitar, and credit MTV for playing to Ocean's strengths. As much as his debut, "Channel Orange," experiments with electronics, this is old-school soul music with just a nip of a modern sheen. 

The setting was that of a backyard fire, although the giant, "Lost"-like crystals obscured any sense of time and place. No matter, as the closeups were all on Ocean, and as he shifted from graceful singing to wavering falsetto, it was never less than riveting.

PHOTOS: 2012 MTV Video Music Awards | Arrivals

This was an awards show embracing an exciting young artist and letting that artist have the floor. Look for Ocean's momentum to continue to pick up, as he'll appear on "Saturday Night Live" next week.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was British boy band One Direction. 

Let's be fair. Taking a bunch of cheap shots at a boy band, regardless of its country of origin, is a pointlessly easy target. What the One Direction live performance had to show was whether or not any members of this band had breakout star potential. The answer is still inconclusive from this end, as "One Thing" was largely a group number. 

The biggest takeaway from "One Thing": The song, live, sounded uncomfortably close to "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys.

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