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Should we criticise musicians for entering high luxury fashion?

Frank Ocean’s $27,000 USD sex toy left many fans disappointed and muddled. At what point does a popular musician’s entry into fashion and other high-end avenues become exploitative?

Frank Ocean unveiled a $27,000 USD male genital sex toy last year – complete with a nude photography demonstration, obviously – leaving many fans feeling deflated.

It’s been six years the release of Ocean’s last full length LP Blonde, which has since been cemented as one of last decade’s most influential mainstream albums. A few rumours of summer studio recordings and Spotify cover image changes stirred online, with most hoping that we’d finally hear fresh music after all this time.

Instead, Frank gifted us with what can only be described as a rich man’s bedroom indulgence toy.

I’m not sure exactly who this item is for outside of the uber capitalist, rich fashionistas of A-list celebrity spheres, and it’s disappointing to see Ocean drop something so incredibly inaccessible to nearly everybody else.

Uber capitalist musicians are not a new phenomenon, of course. Many artists transition into luxury products, including Rihanna, Kanye, Travis Scott, Machine Gun Kelly, Tyler The Creator, Pharrell Williams, Diddy, Madonna, and many more.

Expanding into other industries isn’t necessarily worthy of criticism and is often simply good business. There are occasions, however, where a line can be crossed into exploitative territory.

Should we really be giving Ocean our time and attention for an insanely overpriced jewellery product over half a decade on from his last notable body of work? At what point does a creator use their fanbase and public goodwill for self-serving bag chasing?

Frank is no doubt aware that buzz will always swirl around his name. It’s depressing to see that privilege be used to push ludicrously expensive luxuries rather than to do anything meaningful for normal people.

Frank’s apparent lack of care toward his fan base extends beyond just this bizarre sex toy launch.

A look on his subreddit in particular gives a clear picture of poor customer service, overpriced merchandise, and a general dismissal of fans that are devoted to his music. The shipping situation over the years has been so inadequate that one of the highest upvoted posts on his subreddit is a megathread explaining how breaks federal trade commission laws.

Frank’s newest release may be a simple shock piece, or an attempt to widen awareness of his Homer jewellery brand, but it exemplifies a feeling that he does not value his feverish following outside its monetary potential. There is not sufficient evidence to suggest that he cares about the people that landed him in this position in the first place.

By equal measure, though, it’s easy to argue that an artist owes nothing to anyone. Frank is free to release whatever he wishes, and can divulge in jewellery and niche sex toys if he wants.

It’s just a shame that nearly all of his products are for the wealthy. While other artists have attempted to collaborate with brands such as Converse or GAP to create semi-affordable mass-market pieces, Frank is determined to sit firmly in the elitist camp, hidden behind a wall of celebrity anonymity.

His closely associated musical peer Tyler The Creator has followed a similar path.

Where they differ, however, is that the GOLF WANG brand offers clothing and items that are somewhat within the realm of possible purchase for the average person. Crucially, it doesn’t feel completely self-indulgent as a business venture and serves a purpose for fans and keen Odd Future loyalists.

This sex toy release is mostly a stunt – that much is obvious. Regardless of its intent, we should be mindful of celebrity fashion lines and high-end branding that seeks to part us from our hard earned cash.

Our favourite creatives are not loyalists to their following, nor their economic background. More often than not they are capitalist opportunists, branching out and accumulating other avenues of income and influence. Quite often the original music and artistry gets lost in the process. It’s been six years since Rihanna dropped an album, for example.

Some of these ventures can be a positive disruption to traditionalist industries and encourage diversity among old-age markets that usually ignore anyone that isn’t white, straight, or wealthy. Many musicians have helped shape fashion spaces to be more inclusive.

Not every product line is built the same, though. There’s a big difference between exploiting your loyalists for clout and creating meaningful products that can have a widespread impact.

Frank isn’t above flogging extortionate niche items that have no reasonable customer base and his company’s poor track record only further suggests that profits are his primary motive. Remain sceptical of your favourite musicians and don’t be swayed by indulgent, overhyped fashion lines.

In these trying and tough times we shouldn’t rush to throw our money into the pockets of wealthy millionaires, after all.