During last weekend’s highly anticipated yet somewhat disappointing performance where fans were seen walking out mid-set, Frank Ocean announced that new music is coming, but not just yet. 7 years after his last album drop, “Blonde”, the artist has set the bar and expectations high for any new music that he will put out, considering how greatly regarded and appreciated that album is, with some calling it his magnum opus.
“Blonde” opens with Nikes which features two contrasting voices – Frank Ocean’s natural voice and an edited squeaky, almost chipmunk-like high pitched tone that doesn’t feel unnatural but rather another layer of the artist’s complexity. This torn duality is a common theme throughout Ocean’s discography – “I see both sides like Chanel” is a clear example of this as the artist dives into his sexuality in Chanel.
“Blonde” continues to fringe on a fever dream-like sound, both through his vocals and avant-garde RnB instrumentals, on tracks like Ivy and White Ferrari. The flowing ease of the tracks found on “Blonde” can also be attributed to its lack of overbearing drums and long voiceless breaks that remain uninterrupted even when the artist jumps onto the mic.
Most notably Nights is a track that can be divided into two parts. The first part, which is made up of a 3 part looped beat sees the artist seems to be speaking to someone whose relationship with them has been dampened, and to which Ocean feels distant from, especially with the lyrics “Can’t keep up a conversation / Can’t nobody reach you”. The second part, post-beat switch up that comes about with a guitar riff, sees the artist unravelling, letting go of any walls that may have been put up. He states “Every night fucks every day up / Every day patches the night up”, expressing how he feels stuck in a vicious cycle to no one else’s fault but his own behaviour.
Pink + White became the album’s most popular track, with just under 700 million streams on Spotify. The song takes a more romantic turn as soon as it starts with its airy, lightweight instrumentals. Pink + White could be considered a love song, as Ocean addresses someone or something who “showed me love”, but instead the artist reveals how destructive and uncontrollable that love is, perhaps hinting at an addictive relationship to drugs. The “glory” signifies the high highs but the imagery of a “hurricane” shows how powerless Ocean is to that love, admitting that “it’s all downhill from here”.
Whereas his previous 2012 album “channel ORANGE” felt like an interpretation of life through Ocean’s eyes with tracks such as Super Rich Kids and Sierra Leon, “Blonde” explored inward feelings and ideas much more deeply. Whether it be heartbreak, masculinity or trauma, “Blonde” is deeply personal without either revealing too much.
Elusiveness has always played a part in Frank Ocean’s identity that bleeds into his music. Rarely making public appearances, taking extended breaks of silence between album releases, for being one of the most popular artists of this generation, little is known about Frank Ocean. After such a deeply intricate and layered masterpiece like “Blonde”, which still left fans with so many unanswered questions, it’s hard to imagine where Ocean will take us next with his possible upcoming album.
But this is exactly what Frank Ocean does. After the critically acclaimed “channel ORANGE”, the artist fell off the face of the Earth, with many wondering how and if at all the artist would come back. 4 years later, “Blonde” dropped, reaching new, previously unimagined heights of complexities, layers, torn emotions and deep dives accompanied by a psychedelic sound that felt like we were holding hands with Ocean during a trance. That is no easy feat to top, or even match, but neither was “channel ORANGE”.
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