In 2012 Frank Ocean released his debut studio album Channel Orange with much anticipation after his hugely popular mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. The singer, songwriter, rapper, and producer mesmerized the music world with his dreamy pop songs. But in the four years following the album release, Ocean went off the grid: deleting his social media, abstaining from any media coverage, and his location remained unknown. Rumors flooded the internet about his next album and when it was potentially coming out, but all turned out false. Fans itched for new music. But now, Ocean has released a full body of work including two albums (Endless and Blonde) and a magazine (Boys Don’t Cry). After spending a few weeks with Ocean’s latest work, I can tell you it was well worth the wait.
If you go into either Endless or Blonde expecting another version of Channel Orange, you will find that is not what you are going to get from Ocean this time around. After Channel Orange’s uplifting songs with beat switches, glorious choruses, and bridges, Ocean’s new work is mellow and more poetic, however, the topics that he writes about (love, his passion for cars, and simple everyday moments in his life) are similar to those of his debut RIAA Gold Certified Album, Channel Orange.
Beginning with the first of the releases from Ocean, Endless, a visual album that fulfilled his record deal with Def Jam Recordings, is one of those albums that has an incredible flow and sounds like one continuous song. As a whole, the album primarily focuses on Ocean’s vocals rather than the production and detailed instrumentals in the background that you will hear on Blonde. Some of the highlights from Endless include: “At Your Best,” an introduction to the project that acts as a lullaby to the listener; “Unity,” which features more involved bass and percussion as well as Ocean’s innate ability to intertwine singing and rapping; and finally “Rushes” and “Rushes To,” two beautiful poems that Ocean sings rhythmically back to back. Overall, Endless is a great album and it sounds beautiful, but the aspect that it lacks is a coherent theme throughout in comparison to Blonde.
Blonde showcases all of Frank Ocean’s strong suits: upbeat pop songs, mellow love songs, and rap verses that tell narratives from Ocean’s personal life. It is a more personal album for Ocean compared to his previous projects, he writes songs rich in emotion and it gives the listener a chance to pick his brain and find out what’s going on in the mysterious and confusing life of Frank Ocean. He tells stories of his previous relationships and uses metaphors in his lyrics to deliver bigger messages that encompass the album as a whole. Channel Orange was an album with fictional narratives, using imagery and personification to connect the stories to his personal life. It required the listener to be very in tune and make inferences about the music’s subject matter, Blonde is more direct. Every song on the album has a purpose, whether it’s his pop hit “Ivy” or phone call sound bite “Be Yourself,” each track contributes to the consistent themes of the album. Though there are minimal features on the album the one that really stands out is Andre 3000’s verse on “Solo (Reprise),” he nails it. The best songs on Blonde are: “Nikes” (minus the weird voice changer that Ocean decided to use), “Ivy,” “Solo,” “Skyline To,” “Nights,” and “White Ferrari.”
You can feel the four years that went into making Blonde and Endless, both are albums that are thought provoking and totally worth the wait. Take your time with the next ones Frank!