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Throwback Album Review: Frank Ocean “Blond”

Final Verdict = A+

Eli Schmitt, Writer

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After his 2012 release of Channel Orange, Frank Ocean was on top of the world.  He won two Grammies and toured the globe.  But then something odd happened: he disappeared. He packed up a duffle bag of clothes, a backpack with all of his music hard drives, and moved to London.  He then started a 3-year chess game to regain the rights to all of his music and to leave his DefJam deal that he felt was strangling his creative process. After years of fans impatient waiting and potential release dates coming and going.

Finally, in the summer of 2016, a live video popped up on his website of Frank building a staircase while music played in the background. This music would become the visual album Endless which was 140 hours of video pressed in 45 minutes.   He released Endless  (an Apple Music exclusive) on August 19th, 2016.  Then on the next day, Frank Ocean released his true sophomore album Blond. Which was released under his independent label Boy’s Don’t Cry.  He had finally fulfilled his contract with DefJam.

Ocean was inspired to make Blond after a conversation with a childhood friend. “(It) made me feel as though I should talk about the way I grew up more.” He said in an interview with the New York Times. “I wrote ‘Channel Orange’ in two weeks,” he continued. “The end product wasn’t always that gritty, real-life depiction of the real struggle that happened.”

Blond overall is a much more mature and introspective album than Channel Orange.  Where Channel Orange is much more indebted to 70’s soul and funk, Blond is much more minimal in it production and indebted to artist like Brian Eno, The Beach Boys and modern indie rock.  The album features production from John Brian, James Blake, and Johnny Greenwood from “Radiohead” just to name a few.  It also features a guest verse from Andre 3000 on Solo (Reprise).

One interesting note is that the album is exactly 1 hour long, and at the 30 minute mark there is a beat switch on the song Nights.  This could be referencing the two sides of Frank himself or his bisexuality.  A point he also comments on in his 2017 single “Chanel.”

2016 was a hyper-political year but with so much music that reflected the times Blond seems very escapist.  The albums make the listener look inward at problems instead of outward at the world.  In fact, the most political moment comes on the opener Nikes when Ocean sings “RIP Trayvon, that n***a look just like me.”

Throughout the album Ocean sings in many different tones and voices “Sometimes I felt like you weren’t hearing enough versions of me within a song, ’cause there was a lot of hyperactive thinking. Even though the pace of the album’s not frenetic, the pace of ideas being thrown out is” he described in an interview.

Frank Ocean proves on Blond that he is a master at storytelling, this also large part of his appeal.  The ocean does tell stories of how many millions or the problems of fame.  Ocean tells relatable stories of love, emotions and overall real things. One way he does this is using cars as a vehicle of storytelling, for example in the closer Futura Free when he says “Remember when I had that Lexus no.  Our friendship don’t go back that far”.  But throughout Blond Frank’s storytelling is very non-linear and uses different experiences from his life to develop the themes of the songs.

Overall the production and instrumentation on this album are beautiful.  Whether its the strings and poppy bass line of Pink+White or the guitars on IvyBlond is a very sparse and minimal album that only keeps the bare essentials.  Ocean also takes a lot of risks on this album that very few albums of this size are able to pull off. If you somehow haven’t heard Blond I would greatly recommend it.  It is one of the best albums of the decade and even two years after its release the album still hasn’t managed to become boring to me.

Favorite Songs: Ivy, Pink+White, Solo, Nights, White Ferrari, Seigfried, Godspeed.

Least Favorite Songs: None

 

 

 

New York Times Interview-  <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/arts/music/frank-ocean-blonde-interview.html>

“Nikes” video- https://vimeo.com/179791907

1 Comment

One Response to “Throwback Album Review: Frank Ocean “Blond””

  1. Jordon Jackson on April 18th, 2018 10:55 pm

    Self Control on the best list as well for sure!
    Pretty much dead on album is solid.

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