I got two versions, I got two versions…
The last time we heard this line, Frank Ocean was revealing to us a magazine announcing his highly anticipated album Boys Don’t Cry, which is no longer, and is now produced and delivered to us as Blond.
Please excuse the fact that this will not be a usual album review, but rather this will be a personal reflection of my experience in the past 24 hours with Ocean’s 4-year, long-waited project. Since the days of Channel ORANGE and then Nostalgia Ultra, I could not stop listening to this mystical voice that is this avant-garde artist. He lulls you with this beautiful vocal that layers over perfect beats and rhythms and somehow always was able to instantly get me swaying, singing along, and feeling chills run up my spine. This man has single-handedly stolen the hearts of thousands all across the world with his innate talents. The emotion he infects people with. The magic he injects into his own musical sound. So, forgive all of us who were extremely obnoxious these past few years, pressing for some sort of object of fruition from the artist as if he was our greatest needed fix.
His marketing tactics served him well. From a press release in a magazine, to a rumor spread, to other artists making comments, to a site update with an image, to a random Calvin Klein commercial, to an Apple Video Live stream, to a visual album, and 4 years of no social media notice… He finally delivered to us his baby.
When I hear his music, I know that full effort, full artistry, full attention and so much more were put into it to make sure it is exactly what he wanted. And that’s why I can appreciate it.
I will admit though, I was disappointed the first time I went through listening to Ocean’s album Blond. However, I should be truly disappointed in myself for not understanding the bigger picture. I had allowed the world to get to my head that I was expecting something epic and extraordinary and something like Channel ORANGE. I should have known better that Ocean would never commit such a sin. He would continue to develop his sound. He would utilize every single piece and puzzle and that he could construct to create not only a staircase to whatever musical heaven he wanted like he did for his visual album Endless, but he would also create a compilation of exquisitely well-thought out tracks that would not be meant to be strung together, they were meant to stand as an artwork of their own identity, of Ocean’s identity and personality.
My initial thoughts when I first heard “Nikes,” the first single off of the production, was “WOW.” Just wow. The visual that accompanied this song was incredible as well as it was extremely artistic, and very Frank Ocean-esque. Next to be heard were “Ivy” and “Pink + White” which captivated my heart because I heard his beautiful angelic voice stream through the instrumentals. But then the album continued on, slow songs were slow songs, and hip hop sounds were just hip hop sounds. My next thoughts were a dismayed “Damn.”
I found myself getting bored. I started wondering what made this album so special compared to the complexities of Channel ORANGE and his mixtapes. Every slow song sounded the same- their bass lines created out of the same instruments and noises. The production was monochromatic. I started thinking how every time I wanted to like a song, I found myself hopelessly unamused by the end of the track.
It was disheartening that I had waited all this time, only to find myself wishing Frank had waited a little longer to work on this album.
It was getting late, and I had finished listening to the album and decided that it was time for me to rest on it, and then give it another try tomorrow. As I went on my run the next day, I streamed the music again, hoping that some sort of miracle of “Pink Matter” would rush to my head and infiltrate the sound waves. Once again, I was starting to be overcome by that feeling of unfortunate loss of connection between music and human adoration.
As I was nearing the end of my run, it hit me at #15, “Seigfried,” a balladic lullaby. I came into all of this wanting something. That’s not what this is about. This is about what the artist wanted to give to the people. If there is anyone that I can do, is that I can give respect to him for staying true to himself. It’s only Frank Ocean because he truly cares about his music like a mother cares for her child. It’s a project that exposes you to a lot more than you would ever experience in any other album. It’s a short and shattered film much like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, not meant to be listened in order or out of order. As you weave in and out of actual music and monologues, you find yourself curiously in a blur and in a wonderland of unprecedented illusions.
“Bad luck to talk on these rides/Mind on the road/Yet dilated eyes/Watch the clouds float/White Ferrari/Had a good time,” sings the R&B god in his track “White Ferrari.” Once again, magnificent.
If you research enough, you find that the work Christopher Francis Breaux put into this album is admirable, is insane, and is stunning. He unleashed to us a multimedia experience! He helps us use all of our senses to touch, taste, feel, see, and smell the collections of music. This contemporary creator of sound, this avant-garde designer of soul, and this architect of poetic vibes is the artist named “Frank Ocean.” It is his music that deserves to be remembered as this masterwork that includes not only notable producers, but also fantastic artists and intriguing references and analogies- a multitude of stories. Blond may have not been what I expected, it may have no been what I was looking for, but it was a sweet surprise and an even greater awakening. In 24 hours, this is what I gathered of the album, and this I ask that you take the same transcendental and careful approach with the album. As a true blue Ocean fan, you’ll learn to “Swim Good” with this artist’s intonations, harmonies, dreams and desires. I crossed an ocean of judgement to get to this place of love. Peace and love with this incredible fabrication, a celebration of art!
Let us know what you thought of it!
You can watch the music video for “Nikes” below: