To say ‘waiting for Frank Ocean’s album was easy’ is an utter lie. After Frank blessed the Universe and his fans with his extremely brightly coloured debut studio album, ‘Channel ORANGE‘, he disappeared with little to no social media or anything presence.
As the four years went by, with very minimal Frank being released or spoken about, 2016 was a blessing in the grey, as they’d say. Screenshots of Frank Ocean and Rich the Kid popped up around social media, Frank appeared in a picture with Chance The Rapper as well as appearing on writing credits for James Blake’s recent studio album and a very minuscule feature on Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo‘.
In July of this year, a subliminal post was put up on Frank’s Tumblr account with a slew of dates; one of which being in July, which all thirsty Frank fans (including myself), were eagerly anticipating the date for.
I was in the middle of Wales, with little to no WiFi, scrolling through Google aggressively on the supposed release date, looking for any information of an album release. Nothing. Frank at that time still had his unreleased album titled ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and I can, with a hand over my heart, say that that is BULLSHIT. (I cried a little bit)
Anyway, fast-forward to 20/8/16 and we finally receive the most anticipated album of the year, ‘Blond‘.
‘Blond’ was surrounded by controversy at first (because streaming services are ruining the music industry, but that’s for a later post). Although we had the weird, visual album by Frank titled ‘Endless‘, which can also be found just in audio, Frank also released ‘Blond’ as a free agent to opt out of a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation (I don’t blame him).
Before I lose anyone else’s interest, let’s actually get to the review.
Firstly, ‘Blond’ is an emotional album and follows up with a majority of the same topics he spoke about on ‘Channel ORANGE’. However, instead of multi-textured instrumentals filled with psychedelic pianos, Rock-like guitars and the following the format to include the incredibly vivid 9-minute ‘Pyramids‘, ‘Blond’ is nothing alike. The instrumentals on this album are minimalistic, only having three or four instruments playing against one another, sometimes, not even evident unless you have headphones on! Frank’s voice however, is the real instrument on this album. On every song (minus the interludes), Frank uses his voice like sugar and baking powder; the complete track is the cake, but without Frank, you’d have nothing like the finished product.
On the first track of the album, ‘Nikes‘, featuring Japanese rapper, KOHH, we hear Frank singing in a ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ pitch, behind summer-like hi-hats and a synth that just breaths the coolest breeze. The track is showing that in today’s society, all the people really want are materialistic objects with a name on the product to make themselves look cool.
As the album continues and we get the heartbreaking ballad ‘Ivy‘ which has a slight Nirvana ‘In Utero‘ vibe to it and the beautiful ‘Pink+White‘ with Béyonce harmonising gloriously in the background, the vibe of the album and overall content starts to become darker. While on ‘Solo‘, Frank raps over the most simplistic keyboard about a past relationship which frank would ‘Bring trees to blow through’ but would have no one to smoke with him. (Insert crying emoji and hit me up, Frank if you ever want a light night sesh!)
Highlights from the album though have to be the instrumental for ‘Skyline To‘ with Kendrick Lamar providing the occasional ad-lib, the cool, guitar-strum lead ‘Self Control‘, which is one of the best vocal performances from Frank as well as the religious and melancholy lyrical delivery and contains one of my favourite lines ever; ‘I came to visit, but you see me like a UFO.’
As well as this, is the night-walk soundtrack ‘Nights‘. The track is probably one of the more ‘louder’ instrumentals with looped guitar chords and thumping bass, however, the track is arguably one of his best tracks. He talks about friends who ‘you can’t break the law with’ and trying to bring a ‘dead’ relationship back to life.
Lastly, there’s ‘Seigfried‘. With loads of strings and a minimal bassline, Frank truly shows himself as a songwriter and vocalist on this track. The track is exploding with emotions of isolation (‘I’d rather live outside, I’d rather chip my pride than lose my mind out here’) and the societal pressure of being a man.
In overall, the album, minus the skits and ‘Futura Free‘ is flawless. It is more and exceeded what I wanted from Frank. Instead of following the herd and releasing another typical ‘pop’ album, (not saying ‘Channel ORANGE’ is!) Frank decided to flip the idea of contemporary-pop music on its head and give his idea of a ‘typical’ pop album. If anything, Frank has improved as a musician since the release of his previous album and is most likely going to be hibernating now until I’m in my thirties, yet, I think (I probably won’t) I’ll be able to last the next couple of years without a Frank album.