Music News

Frank Ocean tells Chipotle to "Fuck Off" on a check he hasn't actually delivered [Update]

Update, 3/12: Frank Ocean has now delivered a check for the full $212,500 to Chipotle. But it wasn't the one posted to his tumblr on Monday, on which he'd written a certain colorful greeting. "Curiously, the memo line was blank," says Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold.

Original post follows...

Frank Ocean is among the most interesting R&B singers on the planet. He emerged from shit-kicking hip-hop collective Odd Future with a major label debut that topped the 2012 Pazz and Jop album poll. His openness about a teenage romance with a man put him at the forefront of public discourse well beyond the world of music. And this week he's in the news again. This time, though, it has nothing to do with his personal life or even his music. It's about a song he didn't sing for a Chipotle commercial, the ensuing legal action and the public posting of a very unfriendly check that, so far, he hasn't actually delivered.

Maybe you remember the "The Scarecrow," Chipotle's commercial for a video game that is itself a commercial for the Colorado-based burrito company. Fiona Apple sings a cover of "Pure Imagination," which serves as the clip's soundtrack. Originally, Frank Ocean agreed to provide a rendition of the song.

The whole thing is, like the "Back to the Start" clip featuring Willie Nelson singing "The Scientist," a comparatively artful approach to fast casual branding. But it is a branding effort. Chipotle's logo appears as a bumper at the end of the clip, and according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles last Friday, that logo sparked the breakdown of the relationship between Chipotle and Frank Ocean.

As first noted by The Hollywood Reporter and widely disseminated after that, Chipotle signed Ocean to a $425,000 contract last June for the "Pure Imagination" cover. They agreed to pay half of it up front and the other half when they got the recording. But on the day they were supposed to have it, Ocean's management contacted Chipotle to tell them he had refused to sing because the brand's logo appeared at the end of the clip. Ocean says that contradicted earlier conversations he'd had with Chipotle; Chipotle says they made him no such promises. Fiona Apple wound up on the soundtrack and the BuzzFeeds of the world were very pleased. But there was still the matter of the $212,500 Chipotle paid Frank Ocean initially, and it was in pursuit of that payment that they filed last week's lawsuit. You can read the full text of it, again courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

Yesterday, Ocean posted a photo of a cashier's check to his tumblr for the full amount of the payment with the words "FUCK OFF" written on the memo line. The recipient's name is redacted, but you don't need Pure Imagination to figure it out.

The post right before it is a link to Wikipedia's entry on defamation. The post right after it is a Soundcloud embed of a song he worked on for Converse.

That would appear to be the end of the issue: Chipotle has its money back, Frank Ocean has registered his displeasure and we can all go back to listening to Channel Orange because that album just does not get old. Except Chipotle says they don't actually have the payment.

"We've seen the photos online, but haven't received a check," Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold tells Westword. "We certainly hope he's interested in resolving this, and that it's not just a stunt."

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Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky