Frank Ocean: Blonde (2016)
–Tyler Tippin @richie_crush 09/30/2016
Frank Ocean has become a man of mythos for most of 2016. Between delayed release dates and fewer public appearances, his follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange remained a vague mystery. In August he released one of the finest albums of the year, Blonde.
Blonde is a smooth and intimate listen that features countless collaborations and immaculate moments. Starting off with the self-produced “Nikes”, Ocean cradles his melody that he seemingly seeps in and gets lost into. It’s a great highlight and one of many varieties of feelings that he invokes into every song. His integration of elements from a wide range of genres and samples bends a defining classification of where on the spectrum of pop/R&B/hip-hop/indie this LP belongs. Alongside this release was the visual album Endless, which was a mesmerizing ambient piece featuring an impressive catalogue of artists and contributors (ranging from Alex G to Arca). Endless achieves what Blonde also set out to achieve; to captivate the audience through a variety of dreamy and intimate moments. Frank sounds completely in his element in songs like “Solo” and “Nights”, where he can amplify his soft voice and fully express himself in his most personal times. The interludes are charming as well, but admittedly age poorly for me after repeated listens.
All of the features on here feel at home with their contributions. André 3000’s full layout has the same impact as Beyoncé’s backup vocals on “Pink + White” in a significant way. Yung Lean even finds his way in to share one of the most tender songs on Blonde “Self-Control”. The more you pay attention to the lyrics, a narrative starts to arise that unifies the whole concept. It really is an impressive and ambitious project that I would argue captures a peak of music in 2016. Dynamic ambitions conquer everything that Ocean has meticulously crafted over the last 4 years. Subtle songs like “Godspeed” can be marveled at for its intricate introverted serenity and placidity. “Futura Free” is a beautiful goodbye to not only his latest body of work, but also a departure from the past. Ocean makes it clear that this is a defining point in his career, and one can only hope his passion and talent continue to transcend through time. Albums like this are most important at times like these, in order to really spark some different change of pace in the fields of how everything works. Long live the Ocean.