After four long years of waiting, we finally have some actual music from renown R&B artist Frank Ocean. In the course of just 48 hours, not only did Ocean drop one album, he dropped two, providing fans with some of his best work to date.
Since the release of his hit debut album “channel ORANGE” in 2012, Ocean has been a complete mystery to the world. He has released cryptic images teasing the release of a new album on more than one occasion, but all of the puzzles led to another delay in the release date. Little communication from Ocean about when an album would actually be released led to a lot of frustration among his fans. Although many of them tried to convince themselves that they were not that interested in whatever was to come from Ocean, they all rushed to their computers and mobile devices in a fury when there was any word about Ocean’s long awaited new album.
On Thursday, Ocean finally came through. The internet exploded into excitement when a visual album titled “Endless” was released on the streaming service Apple Music. But that wasn’t all Ocean had to offer. When Saturday afternoon rolled around, another album dropped, and it was “Boys Don’t Cry,” the long awaited new album that Ocean originally announced four years ago, but it was renamed “Blonde.”
First things first, we have to address “Endless.” On the surface, the visual album does not include any ground breaking cinematography and it is not story driven in the same way that Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” is, but what makes it special is the amount of symbolism that exists not only in the visuals, but in the music as well. Ocean had a lot of people lending their hand here. From Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood to electronic musician James Blake and more. It’s clear from the first minute of “Endless” that it is completely different than any of Ocean’s previous works.
“Endless” is a 45-minute-long video complete with 18 tracks. The video is focused on the idea of buildup. We are watching Ocean build a spiral staircase the entire time. During this process, the music starts out slow and keeps things at a low tempo. That is until around 36 minutes in when Ocean finishes the staircase and starts to climb it. That’s when the track “Higgs” starts to play, which is the only track on the album that resembles something you would hear in a club. It’s faster and has more of an actual rhythm. The most important part of “Endless” is the credits. At the very end, an image rolls up on screen and you see the words “Boys Don’t Cry” accompanied by another word: “Blonde.” This hinted at the fact that Ocean would soon be releasing his long awaited album “Boys Don’t Cry.” Although, at the time, many were confused by the meaning behind the word “Blonde.”
“Endless” Final Score: 4/5
While “Endless” includes a unique visual experience and some solid music, it’s not the strongest thing Ocean has ever put out. There is something oddly meditative about the whole experience that “Endless” provides. Although there are some enjoyable moments and thought provoking themes, it was all in an effort to build up to the release of “Blonde.”
“Blonde” is a 17 track record that clocks out at just over an hour long. One of the biggest things about this album is the list of names in the credits. The late David Bowie, Kanye West, Jamie xx, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, the Beatles, André 3000 and more are featured. The main thing that Ocean manages to do with this entire album is set himself apart with the rest of the world, putting himself on a whole new creative level.
When you listen to the lead track of the album, “Nikes,” it could easily seem like classic Ocean to some, but to others they will see someone who has taken the mold of pop music and mixed it with his own unique style of experimentation and created something that is actually genuine. Then you have tracks like “Ivy,” which shows off the full force of Ocean’s vocals.
If you look at a later track like “Pink + White,” which featured Beyoncé as a backup vocalist, Ocean’s masterful collaboration skills are made evident. To be able to have the confidence and ability to outshine Beyoncé is no easy feat, but Ocean does it.
For those who want something a little different from Ocean’s normal style, don’t worry, there is plenty of that on “Blonde.” In tracks like “Skyline To” and “Solo (Reprise),” a lot of musical influence from Kendrick Lamar and André 3000 are present.
For people who are looking for some solid rap songs that are of course supported by Ocean’s vocals, they don’t have to look far. A lot of that is present in “Blonde.”
“Blonde” also includes impressive storytelling tracks. For example, “Facebook Story” features one of the record producers telling the story of how a girl dumped him just because he wouldn’t add her on Facebook.
There are themes of intimacy, jealously and even a little bit of interconnectedness with the real world. All of these themes play key roles in the record, and Ocean sings about them in a very genuine way that makes listeners consider how they are living their lives.
“Blonde” Final Score: 5/5
With “Blonde,” Ocean has truly created a genuine and unique listening experience that you will have a hard time experiencing anywhere else. From front to back, the album takes you on an emotional ride that provides plenty of self-reflective moments. It is easy to connect with the album, and it is even easier to lose yourself in the music, which brings you back again and again to keep listening.
In the end, this long four-year wait was well worth it. Ocean has created something completely unique. We will likely see other artists trying to copy this style, but none of them will succeed the way Ocean has. That’s what makes this album so special. It is on a whole different level.