It’s here, guys. It’s finally here.
After four long years of [im]patiently waiting, the internet no longer cries wolf. On Saturday, August 20, 2016, Frank Ocean dropped his new album. And that’s only one piece of the project he gifted to the world this past weekend.
Since 2012, after his first studio album, Channel Orange, fans have been wondering what on earth Ocean has been doing since then. Years of rumors and high hopes went by until the silence was broken last week on August 18, when Ocean premiered his visual album, Endless, a 45-minute video that streamed on his official webpage and Apple Music. The visual was shot in black-and-white and showed multiple versions of Ocean building and working in a warehouse over the course of 12 songs. Within the next 48 hours, Ocean released a new music video for the single, “Nikes,” a zine titled Boys Don’t Cry (which we all thought was the title to his new album), and the highly-anticipated, 17-song sophomore album, Blonde.
Let me just start by saying that, after the end of a beautiful summer romance that broke my heart into two, your girl was done with listening to Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” on repeat. Done. I needed a new soundtrack to my life. Bless you, Mr. Ocean, for releasing Blonde when you did, because now I’ve got something to pick up my pieces to.
Blonde is the album that is equivalent to the mixtape you would give your ex when you’re ready to move on but still care about them deeply. It is an acceptance album. It is a “You do you, girl” album. It is a crying, hating, learning, loving album. In the few days since its release, I have done all of that to this album.
As to be expected, the work has no defining perspective. It is a softly spoken story, protected by a hard outer shell. Frank Ocean lets loose lyrically, touching on a number of subjects including intimacy, sexuality, and, most importantly, in my opinion, duality.
The album describes contrasts in an abstract way, from openly telling of his queerness in
the track “Self Control” to pining after women two songs later in “Nights.” In the video “Nikes,” he starts by repeating “I got two versions.” A male and a female lay naked in a pile of money, a young man wraps his arms around an old woman. The idea of opposites even exists in the title of the album itself. Though it is written in the feminine version, the cover art displays the title as Blond, no “e,” the masculine version.
With heavy-hitting concept(s) being told throughout the album, Ocean calls for some back-up to help tell his tale. The album contains guest appearances by a number of artists like Beyoncé featured in the track “Pink + White,” Andre 3000 in “Solo (Reprise),” and even James Blake in “White Ferrari,” which I will say is my favorite track by far. With heartbreaking lyrics that just hit way too close to home (“I care for you still and I will forever/That was my part of the deal, honest/We got so familiar”), I can’t help but feel a sense of restoration knowing Frank Ocean understands exactly what I’m going through. On top of that, he even references The Beatles and Elliot Smith, a connection made when he mentioned the two as artists he was inspired by in an interview long ago.
The monologues and lethargic solos cause perfectly timed breaks within the album. The transition and flow between tracks are beyond impressive. The featured artists only fuel the emotions evoked within each song, rather than take away from the concept or simply make an appearance just to do so. The chilling yet apologetic vocals of the Frank Ocean we know and love are stronger than ever. Everything about this works.
This album is the definition of exquisite. It is as real and honest as it gets, and is one step closer to understanding the perplexing mind of Frank Ocean, which is something that we as listeners will never fully be a part of. But, I do consider myself lucky to even be able to take a peek into the world he has created.
Frank Ocean, you just released one of the most influential and meaningful albums I have ever listened to. Thank you.
Both Blonde and the visual album Endless are available on Apple Music now, and are set to be released on other music platforms in a few weeks.
PRISCILLA GAMIT | Bury me with this album because it is my life now | General Manager