Less than 24 hours after releasing his first major project in four years, in the form of a visual album called Endless, Frank Ocean returned with the main event, Blond.
Where Endless sounded like a natural evolution from channel ORANGE, Blond decisively went in the complete opposite direction. Whereas channel ORANGE was expansive and eclectic, Blond is strikingly minimalist. So much so, that I’m having a hard time even classifying this as album. It’s definitely not one in any traditional sense. While the album comes in at what appears like a lengthy 17 tracks, it feels like there’s anything even hardly there. The production is stripped of almost all of the traditional trappings we’ve come to expect from our music, with entire tracks filled with barely more than a few guitar strings and some atmospheric backing. Frank Ocean’s voice is the instrument in these tracks and he uses it as such. Switching between stream of conscious type rants, silky crooning, and his piercing falsettos, creating it’s own rhythm within the landscape. “Nikes” and “Pink + White” are the most traditional songs you’ll get on Blond with familiar arrangements and a through line to follow. They also happen to be my favorite songs on the whole album, with “Pink + White” providing those Nostalgia, ULTRA. type vibes that made me a fan in the first place.
“After 20 years in, I’m so naive
I was under the impression
That everyone wrote they own verses
It’s comin’ back different and, yeah, that shit hurts me
I’m hummin’ and whistlin’ to those not deserving
I’ve stumbled and lived every word
Was I working just way too hard?”
Frank Ocean has always been a vague storyteller, leaving it up to the listener to read between the lines and come to their own conclusions. Blond takes that concept even further this time around, as most of the tracks sound like little more than random musings. On the surface he still talks about longing and finding his place in the world, and if you’re willing to dig, you may find some deeper meanings. But that’s the thing, Blond is so abstract that it left me longing just to hear some actual music. Frank did manage to pull Andre 3000 out from the depths for another outstanding verse, even giving him his own track to vent on. The tracklisting said there were other big name features like Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce but could luck picking out their contributions. Blond has left me torn; as an art project it’s an interesting dive, but as a “music” album there’s just not a whole lot there for me.
“I can’t relate to my peers
I’d rather live outside
I’d rather chip my pride than lose my mind out here
Maybe I’m a fool
Maybe I should move
And settle, two kids and a swimming pool”
What did you think about Blond? Was it worth the long wait? Did Frank Ocean deliver as you expected? Or was it too abstract and artistic for it’s own good? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave a rating for the album.
After four long years, Blond is an interesting dive as an art project, but as a music album the abstractness and sparsity of actual music go too far at times.