BY: Joshua Samuel
After four years of anticipation from fans across the globe, Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Frank Ocean has released a new album called “Blonde” exclusively on Apple Music and Spotify. As the follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut album “Channel Orange”, fans were curious and hyped to see if he could top his masterwork. “Orange” was a melodic concept album which fuses Frank’s insane knack for storytelling on songs such as “Pyramids” and “Super Rich Kids” with deeply personal life experiences of sexuality and unrequited love for a close male friend of his.
The album was musically rich with varied production that helped every song stand on its own and have a clear recognizable vibe. The album was cohesive and flowed through small skits which made it seem like Ocean was channel surfing on a television and it was very exciting to hear what new sound or story the album would bring before reaching its conclusion.
“Blonde” by contrast is more subdued and quaint but yet is just as beautiful as an album as “Channel Orange”. The melodies on “Blonde” sneak up on a listener after multiple listens and every song has nuance and attention to even the most minor details. The album blends into each other with a springtime acoustic sound and feels more of a connected body of work than his previous album.
Frank’s voice sounds stronger and more emotive than ever. “Nikes”, the lead single released only a day before the album is an experimental track with Ocean’s vocals pitched up and feels like an abstract stream of consciousness as he balances everything from materialism, relationship issues to his emotions on the wrongful death of Trayvon Martin.
Frank’s lyrics are sharp enough to fit all of the topics in one song without anything sounding out of place. Another standout is the song “Ivy” which comes immediately after. This one song lets the listener know that Frank is aiming for even more personal vibe on this album. The lyrics are gut wrenchingly beautiful as Ocean can’t find the heart to hate a past lover having nostalgic memories of their time together. The song is mainly acoustic and the sound alone gives the listener a bittersweet feeling that changes as Ocean’s voice alternates between sounding tender or hurt reflecting how the many ways we can view a long gone memory.
The song “Self-Control” features Yung Lean and Austin Feinstein and is another song that based on heartbreak and rejection. The song builds up gracefully into a huge outro that has Ocean singing his heart about finding to having to leave a broken relationship that rid him of his self-control. The song “Nights” is the centerpiece of the album and is a two-part song.
A heavy topic on the album is Ocean’s use of drugs and the first part of Nights is Ocean feeding into his hedonism which a banging rap beat that is unlike anything else on the album. Ocean’s melody and delivery of his lines is ridiculously lively and it feels relatable as he describes dropping his love off his night shift because he needs to keep a job. The second part changes the tone into something more self-reflective and moody. Frank reminisces on how he lost his house during
Hurricane Katrina and was forced to live with one of his friends whom he ends up having a relationship with. “Blonde” is a more personal album than “Channel Orange”. For certain listeners, it may resonate more and be more enjoyed than his debut. It is filled with little details and surprises that the listeners will come accustomed to and become excited for future listens.
It’s an album that is mellow enough to listen to on a long ride towards college but yet is the polar opposite of simple. The lyrics and music will challenge the listener with its depth and when the song clicks you realized how much Ocean has grown as an artist.