Any artist that makes his fans wait four years in between albums, with multiple false release dates and still has fans must be talented. Or at the very least, must be such an enigma that people will listen either way. Frank Ocean qualifies for both categories.
When he stepped on the scene in 2011 as a solo artist, many people already knew Ocean. He had been a member of the collective group Odd Future for a year already. Although I have never listened to his first mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra,” the album was met with a considerable amount of praise. The mixtape even caught the attention of Kanye West. Fans of Ocean’s mixtape only had to wait one year between “Nostalgia, Ultra” and Ocean’s debut studio album “Channel Orange.” In fact, Ocean and his record label decided to release. “Channel Orange” a week earlier than scheduled. We obviously did not know how lucky we were at the time.
Frank Ocean has never shied away from singing about love. In fact, “Channel Orange” is named after the color Ocean felt most connected to during the first summer he fell in love. Everyone knows by now that the individual Ocean’s “orange summer” references happens to be another man. Initially, Ocean addressed this in an open letter on his website, to many fans’ shock. Fortunately, his revelation was well received by his industry peers.
So what about “Blonde”? How does it stack up in comparison to “Channel Orange”? Well, I would say it’s much of the same. There are still the electro-pop influences as well as the switches between singing and rapping. However, “Blonde” takes on a trend that has recently had a resurgence in hip hop albums over the past couple of years, and that is the use of between song “skits.” Examples of this might come from albums such as Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and the critically acclaimed “intro” to Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 album “Ready to Die.” Arguably the best song on Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” isn’t even a song. It’s the skit in which his mother encourages him (his listeners) to “Be Yourself.” She plainly states, “be yourself and know that that’s good enough.” Talk about encouragement! However, not all of the skits are interesting or engaging. I personally find the “Facebook Story” skit a nuisance that pops up mid-way through an otherwise great album. Overall, the album is great. There are songs you can dance to, songs you can cry to and songs that make you think. In other words, the album passes all the tests. However, if I’m being honest, the album wasn’t quite worth the four year wait. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but four years? Come on Frank. You can do better.
“White Ferrari”: “Watch the clouds float, white ferrari,” sings Ocean on this absolutely beautiful track. Much like his previous work, “White Ferrari” tells a love story. Ocean goes heavy on the synth and repetition on this song, which has a weird, almost dissociation-like feel to it. In the end, listeners may realize that the song actually isn’t meant for them, but rather is just meant for Frank to work through his feelings. With a song this beautiful it’s okay.
“Godspeed”: I’ll be honest, the first time I listened to this song, I cried. With its Gospel inspired delivery and Ocean’s organ playing, it’s hard not to feel some sort of connection to the music, at least on my end. Additionally, Ocean’s heartbreaking first phrase “I will always love you,” does enough to break your heart from the first verse. He essentially sets us up to remember that love that got away. I’m not sure whose beautiful voice rounds out the end of the song, but their declaration that they will “always love you, ‘till the day we die,” gets me every time.
“Nikes”: You may be put off by the weird voice effect that Ocean uses during this opening track, however in the end, you will have to admit that it’s impossible not to sing along. It’s also impossible to understand exactly what Ocean is getting at with the lyrics of this song. I have studied them, and I’ve yet to quite get them completely. At the very least, you’ll wade through the weird voice effects and lyrics to the end of the song. At this point, Ocean takes away the voice effect and actually begins rapping in a way that seems like pseudo-mentoring for his listeners. He goes on and on about how your friends may come with you, but they aren’t really with you, how “we” are going to see the future first, and finally how he’ll “look after” us. Again, I’m not exactly sure how the beginning relates to the end, but I’ll take it if it means that Ocean has my back during those rough moments we all go through.