THE FOUR-YEAR wait is finally over. Frank Ocean has come out of hiding to bless fans with a follow up to the 2012 ‘Channel Orange’ record. Quays News entertainment reporter Lauren Bones was one of those patient fans and, well, it didn’t quite reach the benchmark…
‘Blonde’, previously known as ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, is named after the R’n’B artist’s racecar company – Blonde Racing LLC – and follows on from the visual album ‘Endless’ released recently.
Ocean is arguably having a play in the pop music sector with opening track ‘Nikes’ the perfect example.
It has a very similar feel to a handful of tracks on ‘Channel Orange‘ with the catchy beat looping behind the vocals.
Far from long in the tooth, Ocean’s vocals from the start prove he’s as fresh and heavenly on the ears as ever.
‘Ivy’ was originally debuted at a live show in Munich in 2013, and the song opens up about his yearning for a relationship that failed.
His clean-cut vocal sharply contrasts against the simplistic backdrop which allows for his voice to take centre-stage – never a bad thing when it’s Frank Ocean.
‘Pink & White’ differs in the sense it possesses a tropical feel; similar to ‘Sweet Life’ from ‘Channel Orange’ but arguably demonstrates a more realistic view on life.
The effervescent Beyonce takes on the backing vocals on the closing verse however her input is barely noticeable; Queen B doesn’t offer blend into the background.
The short skit on the record, ‘Be Yourself’, is controlled by Ocean’s mother as she mimicked a voicemail message: “Listen, stop trying to be somebody else…be yourself and that’s good enough.”
Kendrick Lemar also features on ‘Skyline To’ but much like Beyonce, the input is limited, with Lemar consigned to chiming ‘haze’ or ‘smoke’ on occasion.
The first proper love song on the album is ‘Self Control’ as a stripped back, romantic track is blended by Ocean’s vocals and the guitar work by Slow Hollows member Austin Feinstein.
‘Good Guy’ is split in two halves – one of Ocean opening up about a blind date in a gay club with a man who “talks too much” while the other half focuses on two men discussing getting their hearts broken by women.
It’s symbolic of the division between men: one strong and controlling whilst the other is far more fragile.
The piano ballad is particularly emotive, if not the most emotional on the record as it invites the listener to listen and reflect.
‘Nights’ follows the same pattern of a track split in two.
Ocean describes a need for new beginnings and looks at recent events as to why he needs to change.
Part two of that track the listener is provided with a much more gripping and smooth beat with Ocean discussing ‘every night f***s every day up’.
One track that encapsulates the name better than the rest is ‘Pretty Sweet’.
Short and sweet, this track fits in perfectly on the album and the beat even increases in tempo towards the end of the song to provide energy and a much-needed fast-paced feel.
Break-ups are quite clear on this record and ‘Facebook Story’ is another to follow that narrative whereby he split up with a girl because she didn’t accept him on Facebook.
I'll be listening to Frank Ocean's Blonde for the rest of my life. Bye
— memo (@getheMemo) August 21, 2016
Frank Ocean makes me feel like my senses have been dulled all my life and only now I'm experiencing things for the first time. #Blonde
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) August 21, 2016
Just finished listening through Blonde. Pretty disappointed in Frank Ocean?
— Derek Flatford ⁶? (@DerekFlatford) August 26, 2016
I really wanted to like Frank Ocean's Blonde but it's so damn boring.
— Luis Barajas (@WoahItsLuis) August 26, 2016
What sounds like a childish concept is actually rather touching as it opens up about the themes of jealously and intimacy.
The track’s riff derives from ‘Close To You’ by the Carpenters when covered by Stevie Wonder but the heavy auto-tune let’s this track down somewhat; it remains interesting, mind.
Notable moments on the album include ‘White Ferrari’ – a track teased on social media in November – with its unique Beatles feel to it.
‘Seigfried’ focuses on isolation and vulnerability while ‘Godspeed’ harks back to a church sound with the organs prominent.
‘Futura Free’ is the nine-minute end to the album where ocean reflects on his life before fame, before Tyler the Creator crashed on his sofa and before Jay Z was landing in his inbox.
Overall, the album is not serious competition to ‘Channel Orange’ – frankly topping that is ridiculously tough.
His songwriting has grown and developed and he has clearly moved to more character studies and personal anecdotes.
‘Blonde’ is very much a time capsule of the last four years as he lets the listener into his mind showing his vulnerability.
By Lauren Bones