If one were to sum up 28-year old R&B sensation Frank Ocean in one word, it would be “unpredictable.”
After a four-year hiatus, Frank Ocean finally dropped his long-anticipated, second studio album Blonde. With its avant-garde simplicity, Blonde is much more abstract than Channel Orange, his first studio album. Fans are, simply put, loving it. Blonde holds the title for the third largest album debut of 2016, sitting behind only Drake’s Views and Beyonce’s Lemonade.
Ocean had been alluding towards potential release dates and album names for months but none of them actually went through. And what’s the deal with the spelling of the album? The album cover shows Blond while iTunes displays Blonde. After a few days passed and Ocean’s team still did nothing to fix this disparity, the dual spelling can be assumed to be intentional. Later, Ocean confirmed this by sending out a tweet where he referred to the album as Blonde. It is rumoured that the dual spelling of the word can be a subtle reference towards his sexuality– something he delves into in many of the tracks off this album. Although Ocean never officially came out as bisexual or gay, he has confirmed to being in relationships with men in the past. In fact, much of this album deals with past experiences with relationships, love, and adolescence.
The entire album explores Ocean’s past with love and youth as well as small bumps along the road.
“Solo” is a mesmerizing track, where we meet Ocean single again. The lyrics hit hard as he delves into being unsatisfied with many aspects of his life but pushing himself to keep rolling on solo. “Good Guy” gives us just over a minute of him reminiscing about a guy he met in a New York gay bar, with shaky organ chords being played in the background. Ocean uses fragmented lyrics in many of the songs and the instrumentals are meticulously constructed. It’s clear that this time around, Ocean wants to shine using the intense raw feelings behind his vocals. In fact, according to The Guardian, more than half of the seventeen tracks are devoid of any true percussion at all.
Blonde not only brings us a range of musical styles, it also brings an unbelievable range of featured artists. The only instantly recognizable feature, however, is André 3000 in “Solo (Reprise)” on the piano. A children’s gospel choir shows up at the end of “Pretty Sweet” and its feature surprisingly matches the mood of the track. French producer SebastiAn makes an appearance in “Facebook Story”, delivering a monologue about social media. Beyoncé makes a small appearance in “Pink + White”, providing outro vocals that complement Ocean’s. In addition to this, Kendrick Lamar, Amber Coffman, Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead, and James Blake all lend their voices to Blonde as well.
The plethora of emotions Frank Ocean brings to the table with Blonde is beyond impressive and fans are more than happy with the final product. Although “Facebook Story” and “Be Yourself” somewhat distracts from the flow of the album, there is little to be unsatisfied with. Blonde is topping music charts globally, and rightfully so, as Ocean has once again topped expectations.