The long-awaited second studio album from the legendary Frank Ocean is here at last. It’s been four years since his first masterpiece, but the artist makes up for it with a seventeen-track album – Blonde – and two visuals, video album Endless and a zine, Boys Don’t Cry.
It has been a phenomenal year for the music scene, with several artists coming out of hiding, such as Rihanna and Queen B. Many never saw August 20th as the day that Frank would grace fans with new material. Ocean decided to make his four-year disappearing act comical by announcing on his Tumblr: “FUCK, SORRY..I TOOK A NAP, BUT IT’S PLAYING ON APPLE RADIO RN”.
“The ‘Nikes’ video forces the audience to feel uncomfortable”
Blonde opens with ‘Nikes‘. The ‘Nikes’ video can be described as pornographic and slightly disturbing: one of the main scenes features a drug party. It forces the audience to feel uncomfortable. We get a glimpse of the artist sitting in front of a car wearing winged eyeliner and Nikes, sipping from a cup. When he expresses ‘he’s got two versions’, there’s a quick shot of two Virgin Mary statues – a creative pun. He sings “these bitches want Nikes” and we get a glimpse of a black car with a Nike tick.
Similar to the ‘Pyramids’ video on Ocean’s first album, Channel Orange, there is a vast amount of nudity, strippers and porn stars. We see a graphic shot of a naked white woman on a unicorn and a naked black woman and man lying in dollar bills. Rapper A$AP Rocky makes an appearance as he gets quoted in the song.
“Ocean… sends out a powerful message about [racial profiling] in America”
When Ocean sings “RIP Trayvon” he looks down at a photo he is holding of the late teen. He sings that Trayvon Martin looks just like him. Ocean’s recognition of one of the most publicised victims of racial profiling in 2012 sends out a powerful message about this issue in America. He could be compared to Beyoncé, who raised awareness about these brutal killings in America on her album Lemonade earlier this year.
Ocean also references a horrific natural disaster that took place in the US: Hurricane Katrina. The intro to ‘Nikes’ is encompassed by auto-tune: we have to wait until halfway through the song to hear Ocean’s touching vocals and see him covered in glitter and a pearl-embroidered outfit. Additionally, this tune features a Japanese rap verse. What an exciting opener!
“Backing vocals from Beyoncé subtly compliment the song”
‘Ivy’ is a love song in which we go on an emotional journey with Frank.
‘Pink + White’ has a nostalgic feel, harking back to Ocean’s previous releases on Channel Orange. It is another love track. However, he sings that “it’s all down-hill from here”. The track features backing vocals from Beyoncé which subtly compliment the song. ‘Pink + White’ ends with birds tweeting, which feels uplifting.
‘Be Yourself’ has a powerful message which is echoed from the very start of the song. Quite literally, it reinforces the idea of ‘being yourself’ and appears to be targeted at the younger generation that are heading to “college” and often get “hooked on drugs, marijuana and alcohol”. A reassuring voice preaches about trusting in your own judgements. We don’t even hear Frank’s voice on this track, possibly because the other voice’s words say enough.
“Ocean’s vocals sound heavenly on this track”
The next track that Frank does sing on is significant. ‘Solo’ almost suggests that he’s taken on everything that was said on ‘Be Yourself’ and is “rolling solo”. Ocean’s vocals sound heavenly on this track. Ironically, Frank says to “inhale, in Hell there’s Heaven”. The background sound effects on this track also feature some ambient sounds. This song is all about self-liberation; it almost sounds like a gospel anthem.
On ‘Skyline To’, “summer’s not as long as it used to be”. This track is dreamy with sound effects from nature. Ocean acknowledges how fast the past year has gone.
“[Channel Orange] was a huge movement for both the Hip Hop and the RnB scenes”
‘Self-control’ appears to be a personal track. Frank proposes to be the guy in “your wet dreams tonight”. During the release of Channel Orange, Ocean was open about his sexuality. This was a huge movement for both the Hip Hop and the RnB scenes, which in the past have been labelled as homophobic.
Another stand out track on the LP is the closer, ‘Futura Free’, wherein Frank explains “I don’t cut bitches no more, but your bitch my exception” which may serve to highlight the fluidity of his sexuality.
‘Nights’ is a standout track. It deals with Frank’s marijuana use “every night” which may have assisted him in creating this LP.
“Time to be honest about the ‘ENDLESS’ visual”
In ‘Solo (Reprise)’, we get a loud, overwhelming rap from Andre 3000. It is a one-minute-long rant ending with “was I working too hard?”.
‘Facebook Story’ speaks volumes. It is delivered through an anecdote by a French man about the dangers of social media for those in relationships.
‘Siegfried’ openly discusses drug use and hallucinations from mushrooms. It’s no wonder that the LP is being described as a ‘trippy album’.
Time to be honest about the ‘ENDLESS’ visual. The 45-minute visual struggled to maintain my interest for the whole time. On starting the visual I was very excited; it began with my favourite rendition of The Isley Brothers’ 1976 classic ‘At Your Best (You are Love)’, a track which the late Aaliyah also covered for her 1994 album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.
“The fact that the artist was able to create two albums of this quality is phenomenal”
The visual featured a black-and-white theme and appeared to be set in a warehouse, with a minimalistic scene. It shows the artist crafting and slowly manufacturing a staircase – hence the title, ‘ENDLESS’. The staircase is clearly symbolic, the fact that we had to wait a full 45 minutes to discover what he was creating introduces the theme of patience. There are several standout tracks on Endless. The fact that the artist was able to create two albums of this quality is phenomenal.
There are various memes floating around about the musician dropping two albums and visuals and a magazine cover all in 48 hours – most are saying he is going to disappear for 15 years. Frank’s Boys Don’t Cry magazine and packaged album was given away for free at four locations across the US and UK.
“I think I speak for everyone when I plead with Frank Ocean not to hibernate for another four years!”
The first indication of this magazine was last year, when many assumed that a new album would follow. His magazine features a lot of nudity and the likes of Tom Sachs and Wolfgang Tillmans (composer of ‘Device Control’ on Ocean’s album Endless). Kanye West wrote a poem (in true Kanye fashion) about McDonald’s for the Boys Don’t Cry magazine. Frank Ocean also appeared on Kanye’s latest album The Life of Pablo this year. In addition, Frank’s magazine features a poem that addresses some huge accomplishments in America: “they let me and my boyfriend become married”.
Frank’s albums, visuals and magazines are daring and unconventional, but it has certainly paid off – despite some critics arguing that he has bombarded us with far too much material to digest at once. I think I speak for everyone when I plead with Frank Ocean not to hibernate for another four years!