FRANK OCEANS BLONDE
If Nostalgia Ultra was days of romance Frank Ocean would never get back & Channel Orange was fantasies and stories built around the beautiful and malignant relationship Ocean had with another man during the warm summer of 2007; then Blonde, the highly anticipated sophomore album can be described as a dreamy, atmospheric and emotional autobiography of the reclusive artists life. For the better part of 4 years, there’s been a distinct mystique and aura surrounding the singer. Seen as an enigma throughout the industry, he’s carefully cultivated his every step, meticulously chosen features, interviews and managed to generate a level of hype most artists can only dream about, but enough about the past. Frank Ocean is back and he delivered a project none of us were expecting.
The album opens with the first single “Nikes” and immediately it’s evident Frank is taking a another road. A slow mellow atmospheric record sets the tone for the rest of the album and many including me were polarized with Oceans decision to change his voice but after multiple listens and watches of the absolute jaw dropping music video, i began finding myself non nonchalantly vibing to the song.The writing was super interesting as Frank talks about cults, materialism, love and for an album single this was a bold move. This song was first reported in April 2015 and one of my most anticipated records to hear, there were multiple reports of Frank getting into an argument with Tyrone Lebon but thankfully it all turned out fine and the the two dropped a classic music video. I would’ve liked to see Frank cut the high pitch voice quicker but all in all, the simplicity of the beat infused with Franks vintage song writing make Nikes a great opener to Blonde.
When i first heard the line “i thought that i was dreaming when you said you loved me” in the 2013 tour, it instantly became my favorite Frank Ocean line because of it’s reliability and simplicity. It’s an experience that can’t be put into words. When i heard it on Blonde, i was speechless, i couldn’t believe he put it on the album. On BBC Radio 1 he said he only finishes songs he likes so for him to perform it live gave me a glimmer of hope however i truly wasn’t expecting for him to put a record that old, to be fair it’s been reworked heavily. The song itself is beautifully written from start to finish and may even be one of Franks best written ones due to the sheer clarity, he doesn’t use fancy metaphors to describe nostalgia, he uses pure raw emotion to convey his feelings.
“We’d drive to Syds, had the X6 back then”
Frank uses cars as bookmarks in this album, this time referring to the X6 as the odd future chapter
“If i could see through walls i could see you faking, if you could see my thoughts you would see our faces”
quite possibly franks best written line, this captures how it feels to be apart of a failing relationship. It’s a heartbreaking line and one which Frank delivers beautifully with the gorgeous guitar plucking in the background
It’s very interesting to see Frank make stylistic choices and he modified the two 2013 live tracks pretty heavily. The early version, “It’s all good” was a lot darker with a depressing atmosphere and simpler beat. The new version almost reminds me of Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya!” where poignant lyrics are juxtaposed with a happy beat.
3. PINK + WHITE(90/100)
A tropical, chill masterpiece. Pharrell does a magnificent job on the production and when you blend that with Frank and Beyonces vocals, it’s an ingredient for a classic song but my only gripe with this song is the hook, would’ve liked to hear something more catchy. As far as the lyrics go, it’s sharp and filled with vivid imagery and some clever metaphors and the overall meaning, not worrying about variables that are out of your control is very calming with the beautiful melody. The song title, referring to **** and cocaine whilst being a metaphor for the colour of the sky is vintage Frank.
“Kiss the Earth that birthed you, gave you tools just to stay alive and make it out when the sun is ruined” a painfully beautiful line:
“Climb trees, Michael Jackson, it all ends here”
So much of the album is looking back at times and Frank uses these distinct analogies and lines to evoke how it feels for him and it’s incredible because he somehow finds new fresh ways to tell us his stories and feelings.
4. BE YOURSELF(60/100)
I LOVE the melody in these interludes, one of my favorite parts about the album actually. It has a sort of coming of age, nostalgic feel to it, something i’d hear in “The Spectacular Now” or “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and the monologue performed by Rosie Watson is funny and heartfelt. This is much better than Channel Oranges “Not Just Money”, i don’t skip Be Yourself like i did NJM and it’s mainly so i can vibe to the beat in the back. Is it something that i’ve been waiting 4 years to listen? No but i understand the meaning and am i’m not to upset Frank chose to include this, it’s good for what it’s worth.
“There’s a bull and a matador dueling in the sky, inhale in Hell there’s Heaven”
Gorgeous imagery by Frank, he’s painting pictures in this song and with his crisp vocals, it’s a complete package. I adore the writing but the production though very clean and minimal, it doesn’t do it for me. i’m not a big gospel fan and the beat to Solo doesn’t go ANYWHERE, i’m listening to a church hym looped. It took me months to enjoy “Bad Religion” (i know, i know) but at least in Bad Religion , there were violins, clapping, the beat reached a climactic point, with Solo it starts and kind of just stays there. I by no means, dislike this song, i believe it’s one of Franks strongest writing but what turned me off was the production.
6. SKYLINE TO(80/100)
The 6th song on Blonde touches up on sex, drugs and just living life, to take things as they come. The record is complimented by dreamy, silky smooth atmospheric production by Tyler the Creator and excellent vocals by Frank and subtle alibs by Kendrick Lamar. The imagery once again is splendid and Ocean does a wonderful job of placing the listeners into the environment of the song. This song reminds me of a sequel to memrise as they both share that low fi almost alien esque vibe. The song has some memorable lines:
“Summer’s not as long as it used to be, everyday counts like crazy”
& “In comes a morning, hunting us with the beams”
7. SELF CONTROL(100/100)
When Frank Ocean hits his peak, there are few artists who can compete with him sonically and lyrically. Self Control blew me away. Everything from the production, lyrics and the artists Frank decided to choose were chosen with care and purpose. The song caught my attention straight away with the returning high pitch voice Frank used in Nikes.
“Pool side convo about your summer last night, oh yeah, about your summer last night”
Self Control will definitely go down as one of the best Frank songs because of the sheer passion and diligence that went into the song. Heartbreaking lyrics, beautiful vocals and an absolute legendary outro. A tale a predicament where Frank still has feelings for an ex lover . It’s such a lovely song and you can literally hear the pain in Franks voice as the record progresses. Also, Self Control has one of the strongest hooks on Blonde thanks to Austin Feinstein and Yung Lean, it adds another dimension not heard in the past 6 songs. All of the previous features are subtle whereas in Self Control, you finally hear a feature in their full effect. It was truly a refreshing experience and only gets better with repeated listens.
“Now and then you miss it, sounds make you cry, some nights you dance with tears in your eyes”
8. GOOD GUY(70/100)
This interlude is special trust me. It’s chilling to me, for the past 4 years we’ve seen Frank travel the world, pictures from his barber, fans, other celebrities but that’s all we ever get. We don’t get to see anything else. “Good Guy” allows us to enter Franks thinking process and a date he once had in New York all in 50 seconds. We see how he goes from being excited to go on a date to upset because he found out that to his lover, it was just a night out and nothing more. It’s one of the few occasions maybe we’ll ever hear about Frank talking about his love life to this degree. The song then cuts to a conversation between two guys and it’s clear it’s a metaphor for Frank being afraid to come out so he goes along with his friend regarding women. Sure this wasn’t album material and i’d love to see him put a proper song instead of this but the meaning and significance behind this is extremely powerful.
“You text nothing like you look”
Blondes most accessible song. This song is a masterpiece from start to finish, excellent production, catchy lines, sick flows, Frank really packages all of his perks for this record and it shows. It’s been hailed as Blondes “Pyramids” which i agree to some degree, i don’t think like the mini guitar snippet, i thought it was a bit useless and didn’t add to the song, i would’ve loved a smooth transition to the second half much like Pyramids. As far as everything else, the story telling by Ocean is flawless as usual, singing/rapping about a past relationship with a guitar heavy melody and one of the few songs with drums. Nights posses some of Franks most catchy lines along with a beautiful sleek pleasant verse to finish off the track.
The song dwells from a relationship, being alone, all the way to Franks time in New Orleans, it’s the only time the listeners have heard Frank talk about his time and life in N.O. The beat switch which happens at exactly 30 minutes offers us into Oceans life with a softer piano beat.
“1998 my family had that Acura, oh, the legend”
“Droppin’ baby off at home before my night shift, you know I can’t hear none of that spend the night ****”
This is what Blonde does well, it doesn’t just revolve around short stories (Nostalgia Ultra) or tales revolving a summer (Channel Orange). No, it gives the listener details and bookmarks of Franks life from his early days to the latest and Nights is a supreme example.
10. SOLO (REPRISE)(80/100)
Another magical verse by the great Andre 3000. Although 3 stacks is present on the album, i wonder why there wasn’t a conventional song between the two rather than just a little interlude. I had a good feeling we’d see Andre on the album and i was excited when i heard him. Not much to say other than the verse is god tier but i always have to quickly put my volume down at the end of Nights so 3 stacks doesn’t blow my ear canal out with “ayeee!”
11. PRETTY SWEET(70/100)
Definitely the most polarizing track on the album, the starting is unexpected, loud, obnoxious but once it smoothens out to the vocals it’s sort of an outer body experience like you’re going to heaven. It’s such a bold idea to put this on an anticipated album because it’s obviously going to be a split among fans. I like the track but that intro is going to have to grow on me. Song hits a peak when the drums kick in and ends off with the choir.
12. FACEBOOK STORY(60/100)
Once again, the beautiful melody plays as this time a story by the French DJ producer SebastiAn tells a narrative about a 3 year relationship ending due to an argument over Facebook. Knowing Frank, this resonates with his stance on social media as he deactivated his Instagram and twitter years ago. I love this interlude because it generates so much discussion and debates on who was right in the track, SebastiAn or his girlfriend. Once again, with the interludes i get why they were added, they progress the overall theme of the album but not something i was waiting 4 years for.
“I’m signing off the network I hope your down to try too”– Feel California
13. CLOSE TO YOU(70/100)
“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t devastated, but you could’ve held my hand through this, baby”
Track 13, “Close to You” channels Bon Iver and is Stevie Wonder’s cover of “Close To You” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It’s a song that grew on me, i love the vocal effects on Frank, some wonderful writing aswell. It’s a short track but nothing extremely special going on here.
14. WHITE FERRARI(100/100)
First signs of “White Ferrari” came from producer A-Track in December 2015, hailed as “the best song you’ll hear this year” and i remember the thread going wild. Several months later and we finally get to hear and it lived up the hype. The outro to this track is one of if not my favorite moment on Blonde. White Ferrari has incredible lyrics, wonderful notes hit by Frank and an iconic Bon Iver esque outro where Frank painfully sings Blonde’s most heart rending line:
“I’m sure we’re taller in another dimension, you say we’re smaller and not worth the mention.”
The song tales a road trip Frank and his lover take in a white Ferrari. Frank steering the car, wanders about love, dimensions and the future of the twos relationship. Frank has a optimistic view about the relationship whereas his lover has a nihilistic view. Franks considerable hopes are often shut down by his significant other yet they continue to find love in one another. It’s a relationship that’s spiraling down and like Frank said in Self Control:
“wish we’d grown up on the same advice and our time was right”White Ferrari is an example of two people blissfully falling in love at the wrong time, a tragic misfortune the cosmos present some of us.
I love every aspect of the song, atmospheric production, excellent lyrics, and the narrative.
The minute i heard the live version in 2013, i was floored. I probably have over 300 plays on it and the second i heard those guitar chords on Blonde i couldn’t believe my ears. There was a lot of discussion amongst the thread whether we’d get the tour songs on Franks upcoming album and we all came in agreement it was highly unlikely which made listening to this an even more surreal experience. Seigfried to me is the epitome of Frank Oceans artistry. A flawless record with multiple layers and incredibly thought provoking lyrics, it’s Frank Ocean at his most vulnerable, speaking from the soul. I’ve been speaking about “stylistic choices” and Blonde is the definition of that, everything has been carefully chosen and in Seigfried, Frank chose to remove the drums which i was so eager to hear and when the song ended it was a bit disappointing. I heard it again and understood that this isn’t meant for me to wait for the drop, it’s to understand and soak in what the man is saying. If Frank thought he needed drums you’d hear them on every track, this is personal, intimate and relies on atmosphere to set the mood. Seigfried is the best example of how you tell stories through words and have the music then compliment and enhance it. The live version, named “Brave” was in my top 5 Frank songs, Seigfried has cemented it.
Frank decied to take out a powerful line which i thought was interesting and it was
“I’m living in the city, yes, forgetting there’s a jungle outside”
– Seigfried (Brave – 2013)
i feel like this line was foreshadowing his future years and why he went ghost. the metaphors used in this are perfect, the city represents his current life, luxurious, content, somewhat mundane but lacking excitement and a purpose. he’s used to living like this, remember frank has been pretty rich most of his adult life so living in the “city” has been a constant variable throughout his life. even with all the money he had never left america before the channel orange tours, he’s looking for a change.
the jungle represents everything else, the rest of the world, women, experiences, lifestyles, cuisines, people, everything that he hadn’t seen before or experienced. a jungle is a vast body of natural beauty with numerous types of trees, animals, habitats and environments. in the zane lowe interview frank said he can work for months but he has to live, he’s been working so much on the album he’s forgotten there’s an entire world to discover and experience, since orange and his 2013 tour, he’s been travelling a lot and moved to a new place, he was craving for a new experience in his life.
Since Seigfried we’ve seen Frank in London, Tokyo, Paris which is safe to see he’s seen the jungle, he went around the world and moved to London, he has experience around the world.
Track 16 is the soulful and emotional track “Godspeed” featuring Kim Burrell. Ever since this was sampled on James Blake’ “The Colour of Anything” i had high hopes and was super curious but i’m not going to lie i don’t like this song. The lyrics are impeccable but i’m just not a fan of soul/gospel music, it’s going to take time for me to get used to it if i even do get used to it.
“There will be mountains you won’t move”
17. FUTURA FREE(80/100)
Prior to pressing play, i looked at the time (9:52) and thought okay Frankie is about to drop Blonde’s Pyramids, this is going to be incredible and once i did i was polarized because it sounded beautiful but it wasn’t what i wanted and this is the underlining theme of Blonde. It’s beautiful but it’s not what anyone expecting. This is Frank zooming down route 66 looking in the rear view, everything from working at subway, hanging out with friends, this is what Blonde is about, a self reflection on his life. Futura Free is Frank letting loose from everything. There’s a lot of talks about why there wasn’t drums and i believe the drums symbolize freedom and happiness. Notice the last 3 songs, (White Ferrari, Seigfried and Godspeed) don’t have drums, notice how Frank took away drums from the ending of Seigfried and i believe its because when the beat drops on Futura, it’s that much rewarding, it’s a “HOLY ****” moment, the last 3 songs make us cry, Futura makes us dance. I get why he put the interview at the end but sonically i didn’t like it at all which is why this song isn’t one of my favorite although part 1 is legendary!
If you’re heading into this album expecting Nostalgia Ultra and Channel Orange like i was, the first listen will be underwhelming. Blonde is intimate, dreamy and slowly grows on you once you appreciate what it is, what it’s worth. We the fans have been asking “where’s frank ocean?! where’s frank ocean?”. Blonde is telling us where he went for the past 4 years and all the little details of his life simultaneously. The blind dates in New York City (Good Guy). finding himself (Seigfried), partying in London (Nikes). He’s given us all the answers, Blonde is very personal and it takes times to unravel fully if you let it. He gave us the short stories in Nostalgia Ultra. He gave us fantasies and tales revolving his first love in Channel Orange. Now he gave us a raw look inside his life with Blonde.
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