FRANK OCEAN - BLONDE
Released August 20, 2016
by Jordan Taylor
What's up with Frank Ocean?
This question was posed during an interview with Chance the Rapper, one of Ocean's amigos within the music industry, in mid-May of this year.
After giving a brief hysterical laugh, Chance responded, "Yeah, I've heard some of his new album. It's amazing. I haven't played him anything of my record in a long time because no one is really able to find Frank. Frank goes away, but I know he is away making a masterpiece."
It was the first time I had heard anything about Ocean's new album in months, aside from a lone appearance at Coachella. It's what every music fanatic wanted to hear. He had locked himself away to practice his craft.
Fast forward a couple of months and Ocean's second studio album Blonde (third overall including the visual album Endless, released the day before Blonde) is finally upon us. Three years after his debut album Channel Orange, he stated in April 2015 that his second studio album was to be released that July. But alas, July came and went with no album and no explanation. The next 13 months would be filled with mysterious AMAs from his producer and misleading teasers on his website, prompting some of the best internet memes from the masses waiting for an album many thought would never come. He certainly knows how to build hype, as the album was a topic of discussion right up until its release earlier this month.
Ocean's first album left me frantically searching the Internet for more. With so much hype, it was almost a shock how good the follow-up was, with so much pressure to produce. Frankly put, Ocean's new album blew me away. Blonde is refined, well put together, and complete with a simple yet elegant sound. A lot of the music is not overly complicated and he uses his impressive vocal range to carry every song, adding unique effects where needed.
The album lyrics are mostly focused around love and life, similar to his previous music, except with more celebrity undertones from his skyrocket into stardom. You can tell how he has changed with coming out about his sexuality, broadening his muse in the process. Songs such as Good Guy, in which he discusses seeing a man in New York, allow us to fully explore his feelings, which truly adds to the album's experiences.
When he isn't talking about his personal life, he provides complex poetry on everyday people's problems. The opening track, Nikes, is an address, almost State of the Union-like, covering opinions on today's fashion and the people and the ugliness of the world. Simple lessons hidden in complex lyrics can be found in Solo, an ode to being alone, and Self Control, about our deep thoughts and urges in the face of love. While the lyrics are often sad and depressing, the music is uplifting and relaxing as the sounds wash over you in true Frank Ocean style.
I was quite surprised at the amount of collaborations on the album, considering his almost hermit-like life, my favourite being the return of Andre 3000 on the second rendition of Solo. Others include previous work relations in Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, and longtime friend Tyler, The Creator.
The interludes were interesting this time around. Channel Orange had a variety of movie and PlayStation sound effects, while Blonde's are all about life experiences. Be Yourself is a voicemail of Ocean's mother talking about the negative effects of drugs during university, while Ocean promptly jumps into singing about taking acid in Solo on the next track.
Facebook Story, from producer Sebastian, talks about the problems in today's world differentiating between digital and real-world relationships.
Even Pretty Sweet, opening with a mash of different sounds and thoughts with no real constructive order, something which I am usually not particularly fond of, played out well, with a transition into a sweet chorus and melody. A fitting song title for my thoughts on the album — pretty sweet!