These days, I’ve surrendered myself to a dream-like cloud floating to the sound of Frank Ocean. After four years of impatiently waiting, our mortal souls have been blessed by Frank Ocean with an album that surpasses time. Along with Frank Ocean’s roughly 60-minute vulnerable stream of consciousness, otherwise known as Blond(e), a visual album entitled Endless and a zine by the name of Boys Don’t Cry accompany the anticipated release of his third album. With contributions from Beyonce, Andre 3000, Pharrell Williams, James Blake, Kendrick Lamar and even Yung Lean among others, Blond(e) brings together an intriguing array of artists to form a consistent sound, somewhat leveling each artist’s different style into one playing field.
The opening song, “Nikes,” is accompanied by a music video that portrays Frank glistening in glitter, and sets the dizzying mood of the album. From electric keyboards and minimalist guitars to voice altering effects, Frank’s songs have the ability to morph from beginning to end. This is noticeable in “Self Control,” as the intro incorporates high-pitched vocal adjustments that are later replaced by languid guitar chords, while the outro consists of the repetition of Frank’s soft voice with glimpses of experimental sounds. “Ivy” demonstrates a similar transformation from beginning to end, escalating to a high-pitched screech at its conclusion and fading off to the sound of Frank Ocean recklessly throwing around unidentified objects. At the heart of Blond(e) is the theme of isolation, most notably seen in “Solo.”
From the wordplay of “Solo” and “So Low” to “In Hell” and “Inhale,” Frank juxtaposes his yearning for escape and desire for comfort. He offers a distanced yet intimate look into his life; mundane actions such as “skipping showers and switching socks” subtly express Ocean’s emotional state. In “Self Control,” Frank describes himself as being seen as a UFO, once again commenting on his isolation and detachment felt throughout the seventeen songs that make up Blond(e).
Amidst the memes, angry tweets and constant frustration expressed by fans, we almost forgot to provide Frank with the proper time and space necessary for his creative process. We relied on him to be the voice of our generation, and in doing so, burdened him with pressure and emotional labor. He touches on these demands in the last song of the album, “Futura Free,” where he mentions feeling like Selena and relating with Tupac’s escape from fame. A sense of entitlement to his music and art encompassed us as we incessantly demanded the release of his album, initially assumed to be called Boys Don’t Cry. However, with the release of his visual album, where Frank slowly pieced together a staircase, he reminded us that it takes time to build something. Although the process may be tedious, the end product is capable of transporting you to a different realm. Indeed, that is the essence of Frank’s music; it transcends time and space, with each carefully constructed line effortlessly falling into place, like “light hang glid[ing] off the moon.”
Blond(e) reads almost like a worn-out journal—not in the cheesy, “dear diary” way, but in the transparent, vulnerable and storytelling manner in which Frank composes each song. He transports us to places and moments in time through emotions and concise, yet vivid, imagery. His lyrics, heavy with shades of colors, drift us through the album with each song flawlessly weaving into the next. He glides us through his youth, speaks of past lives and immortality, nirvana and God, romances and car models—moments entirely characterized by their fleeting quality yet permanent significance. In this manner, Frank makes Blond(e) especially powerful because it constructs a tangible representation of emotions and moments that are difficult to grasp. Frank is somehow able to express what we are unable to, and in such a way that forces the listeners to reflect, leaving us feeling emotionally exhausted yet feeling incredibly good about it.
Maybe you’ll cry as you listen to Ocean sing “some nights you dance with tears in your eyes” with the accompaniment of guitar chords à la Jimi Hendrix, but rather than sinking your mood, it leaves you feeling relieved and somewhat fulfilled. The Frank Ocean effect is hard to explain, but all it takes is one thoughtful listen to Blond(e) to understand.