When Frank Ocean dropped his visual album Endless, I was taken back from the release. No audio files from its tracklist had made its way to Apple Music’s homepage. I wondered, “What is this? Is this how we are going to view Ocean’s new LP after a four-year hiatus?” Then a tweet on social media changed my expectations.
The apparent rumors were true and Frank did indeed have two projects that he was working on. Endless was a project that would finish out his contract with UMG, so he could release his next project independently.That album would be Blonde. An experience four years in the making. However, it was worth the wait.
Last Saturday, Ocean dropped the video to Blonde‘s first single “Nikes.” The visual, in my opinion, was all over the place. Frank just put so much imagery in the viewers face that the video doesn’t enhance the song but hinder it. When the LP released the next day.
I enjoyed listening to the single as a stand-alone audio track. “Nikes” is a hodgepodge of ideas. Ocean tries to see the future first while being lost in a trance of “Weed crumbs and Glitter.” Frank also modified his voice to be in an abnormally high range. This record is a little summary of what is to come from this album.
“Said she need a ring like Carmelo
Must be on that white like Othello” – Frank Ocean “Nikes”
Production wise, Ocean goes for a more lo-fi approach to the record. So don’t expect this album to bump in the whip except for maybe one or two tracks. The tracks “Ivy” and “Self-Control” have contained most of the albums vibes.
The arrangements, especially for the record “Self-Control,” features guitar and harmonies that are absolutely gorgeous. Compile that with Ocean’s otherworldly songwriting abilities and the result is the best love ballads of the year.
“I’ll be the boyfriend in your wet dreams tonight
Noses on a rail, little virgin wears the white” – Frank Ocean “Self Control”
Frank continues to push the boundaries of what traditional song structure can be presented in. The track “Solo” has some of the wittiest wordplays that we have seen from Ocean. Then there is the record “Skyline To” which features a tiny contribution from Compton native Kendrick Lamar
“Everything grows in the Congo
Everything grows” – Frank Ocean “Skyline To”
Frank also comes through with some really interesting skits in this album. From hearing a phone call from Ocean’s concerned mother on “Be Yourself.” To the heartfelt confession of “Facebook Story,” Ocean creates a documentary feel to the LP. This is a change to what was seen on Frank’s debut Channel Orange, where that album was like watching T.V . Flipping from one topic to the next, while Blonde is a more in depth approach to a singular idea.
Ocean continues to impress his listeners on the track “Nights,” which is the standout moment on the album. This record progresses like a movie. Frank’s lyrics on this record are thoughtful and engaging.
“Preaching self made millionaire status
When we could only eat at Shoney’s on occasion” – Frank Ocean “Nights”
“Nights” has become my favorite Ocean offering in years, due to its creative production. The track has two sides almost like the shift from day to night. Frank brings him a game for this track by constructing a masterpiece.
This record is followed by an awe-inspiring verse from the ATLien himself, Andre 3000 in “Solo (Reprise).”
“So low that I can admit
When I hear that another kid is shot by the popo
It ain’t an event no more” – Andre 300 “Solo (Reprise)”
With all the success Ocean finds in this records, there are some noticeable faults. In my opinion, the tracks “Pretty Sweet” and “White Ferrari” could have been left off the album. They both just sound over produced. It almost seems as if Ocean was over thinking these two records. Though Frank comes up with more hits than misses on this LP.
All in all, Blonde is a complex record that demands multiple listens to get a full feeling of satisfaction from it. This makes trekking through the album rewarding. I expect people to talk about this LP for years to come because of the cultural icon Ocean has become. So the opinions on the record will likely change over time. However as it stands right now, Blonde is a great addition to Franks limited catalogue.
Listen to Blonde here.
For more news on Frank Ocean, keep it locked on RESPECT.
Watch “Nikes” posted by Frank Ocean on Apple Music.
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