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Frank Ocean sets himself apart with acid-washed soul and a new introspective image

A return well worth the wait

Jackson Croy, Managing Editor
Originally published November 20, 2016

Emma Obrietan

Following the tremendous success from his debut “channel ORANGE,” Frank Ocean disappeared off social media, and by association, the face of the Earth. Fans and industry heads alike were desperate for more from Frank, so much so that his pop relevance surpassed what the public saw as his artistic license. After a few very vague hints on Tumblr, we wanted the album sooner rather than better.

The hype surrounding the album (rumored to be called “Boys Don’t Cry”) was quickly becoming boring. Especially in 2016, which was quickly becoming “The Year of the Overhyped Album,” thanks to hype-mongers like Kanye West, Drake and DJ Khaled.

Of course, the second there was new music being live-streamed on Ocean’s website, we all instantly forgave years of fickle, seductive teases and bit right back into the sweet bait dangling before us.

“Blonde” starts off with “Nikes,” an underwhelming re-emergence that seems designed to tease the audience even further. Pitched-up vocals in the main portion of the song make the first line sung in Ocean’s traditional bright tenor chant all the more satisfying.

Frank’s first line back in his normal tone, “We’ll let you guys prophesy,” reminds us that after all this time we still can’t predict his next move. This individualistic self-reliance, more than anything, is proven again and again on “Blonde.”

“Blonde” (2016)Frank Ocean★★★★

“Blonde” (2016)

Frank Ocean


The album, unlike most summer blockbusters, is one that grows on the listener through multiple plays. Through 17 tracks, Frank weaves dozens of layers and themes, including addiction, individuality, depression and the tolls of fame. On “Solo (Reprise),” the line “So low that I don’t get high no more // when I geronimo, I just go ‘Eh,’” is flawlessly delivered by seasoned rap veteran, Andre 3000.

The hourlong project completely deletes the modern paradigm that the music relies on the producer to be “good.” While “Blonde” does have both a Pharrell and a Mike Dean instrumental, Frank defeats this stereotype through his songwriting prowess and his own production on multiple tracks. On “Solo,” Frank plays a moody organ riff reminiscent of a wedding march. “In hell, in hell there is heaven,” he sings, indicating his find-your-path philosophy. His voice is matched with an airy response of the word “solo” over and over as the song quietly fades.

Compared to “Channel Orange,” “Blonde” is mellow. More slow dances are heard here, less funk jams. While “Channel Orange” -era frank was dancing his problems away, “Blonde” -era Frank confronts them head on, often in psychedelic-fueled episodes. “High flights, inhale the vapor, exhale once and think twice // Eat some shrooms, maybe have a good cry about you,” Frank says on “Seigfried,” reminding the audience that he is as vulnerable as anyone to heartbreak.

Frank Ocean has grown up. He has come of age in a stunning manner. This album will challenge fans of “Channel Orange,” but the marvelous beauty of Frank’s lyrics combined with airy, nuanced instrumentals should win back the hearts of even the most pop-oriented fans.

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Frank Ocean sets himself apart with acid-washed soul and a new introspective image