FRANK OCEAN, “BLONDE” ALBUM REVIEW

TRIPMUZE rating: 87/100

Why did we feel very long and forever until Frank Ocean’s much-anticipated second album, “Blonde”? People have been talking Frank Ocean’s new album is worth to wait or not these days. 4 years interval is indeed long for any musician’s second album, but actually not that too long in the music industry standards. There are many musicians who take more than 5 years for next albums. But Frank Ocean’s 4 years blank made us feel longer than actual length even though time always flies and we get older fast (sorry!).

The reason is, the most of all, Frank Ocean was really anticipated by fans. His fans are deeply attracted by his original talent like no other when they listened to Frank’s first “channel ORANGE” album. He might first get attention by his sexuality upon debut, but who really cared after listening to his music? The news about revealing his sexuality was just a tiny side dish, although I’m sure he needed a lot of guts to do so, and many listeners all fell down into his original creativity. Also, his fans might doubt if Frank Ocean would really release his second album, and might disappear to somewhere after his debut album. He could possibly be another term of “one hit wonder” by himself without releasing new material. That was actually what I feared it could happen. I hoped not, but Frank Ocean was the artist totally lacked information. No Facebook, no Twitter. Only available his official source of information was his Tumblr before boydontcry.co (is his Instagram account real one? I don’t think so…).

The reality was his creativity didn’t stop making new music. 2 weeks after a rumor about Frank Ocean’s new album release on August 5, when probably many people expected that the release would be delayed like me, “Blonde” finally arrived in this world on August 20, the next day right after “Endless” video album was released exclusively through Apple Music. The new album title wasn’t “Boys Don’t Cry” as initially reported but “Blonde”, with the cover photo his hair was dyed blonde (when I first saw the cover photo, I thought “please, you ain’t Chris Brown…”). Boys Don’t Cry was the name of his own independent label.

Frank Ocean wrote on boydontcry.co, “I got two versions. I got twoooo versions.’ #ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY”, which is also a part of Nikes‘s lyric, the first single from the album. I thought he was talking about album covers. I didn’t expect Frank  Ocean would drop two materials on the straight two days in a row. Maybe many fans, either. The time I started expecting two different albums was when I watched “Endless” because, for me, the songs on the video album weren’t full quality for Frank Ocean. Obviously, not many people knew “Endless” was the last album with Def Jam, and “Blonde” is the fresh start album after being independent. I think nobody had done those; 2 separate albums on 2 days in a row from 2 different record labels (although a few artists had released two albums on the same day from the same record company), as well as one was video album and another was a full album. While they’re nice business strategies with trendy “surprise release” without advance promotion, Frank Ocean broke the boundary of music industry standard again. And think about this, “Blonde” is his only second album, and his previous “channel ORANGE” didn’t achieve mega sales like double platinum. He was an extraordinary standard breaker in the marketing.  Those “second album release stories” reminds me of Guns N’ Roses who released two “Use Your Illusion” albums as their second full studio album in 1991, 4 years after the hard rock band’s first album with repeated delays. Though Guns N’ Roses was a big standard breaker 25 years ago, they were quiet comparing with Frank Ocean. They stayed with the same record company, Geffen, and the record company made big advance promotions so everyone knew about the new release. And Guns N’ Roses was much bigger than Frank Ocean, sold about 10 million copies of their debut album in the U.S. by 1991. But 2 full-length albums on the same day as their second full album release was an extra special treatment for a band debuted only 4 years ago that time.

Like Prince, Frank Ocean destroys music boundary. The stereotype category of his music would be “R&B” because he is an African-American, but his actual music isn’t exactly R&B although his music has that element. Rock? No. Rap? Sometimes he does, and that was where he started his music before being solo, but not most of the time now. Jazz? Influenced but not exactly. Pop? Ummm, his music has a part of it but not really. Frank Ocean creates his original boundaryless music. And the “boundarylessness” is more significant with “Blonde” album than “channel ORANGE”.

“Blonde” basically follows similar music direction with his first album. His music world with floatiness, timeless, and the mysterious feeling is same, too. His unique lyric world stays same. His vocal style is nothing changed. “Blonde” album won’t betray many fans who waited for a long time.

So what is different with “channel ORANGE”? The outline of songs in “Blonde” comfortably blurred in the slower tempo melodies comparing with relatively clear “channel ORANGE”. And Frank’s voice and melodies are more floating than his previous album. That effect gives listeners mostly tripping, sometimes theatrical feeling.
The best song in those characteristics is Self Control. Although the song is probably about giving up a hope or ending sad summer one-way love, blurred, sentimental, and sorrowful slow melodies leave listeners loneliness and solitude then give emotional cleanse effect like removing dirty sins from the heart with tears. Just like self-redemption. Self Control is definitely my most favorite song on the album.

Also, “Blonde” has less up and down with the album’s overall melodies and more monotone than “channel ORANGE”. The melodies of “Blonde” is simpler, and overall album atmosphere is darker than “channel ORANGE”, too. But the album is never boring. The quality of songs is high overall like the last album. And what take the important roles on this new album are 6 interludes out of 17 songs. Those interludes add variety on the album. While Good Guy has Afrocentric flavor and a similar tone with other songs, Solo (Reprise) consists of rapping, Pretty Sweet has heavy electric effects, Facebook Story is talking, and Closer to You is uptempo like “channel ORANGE” album (Good Guy to Closer to You are continuous on the album). And my favorite is Be Yourself. A mother’s preach (probably she is actual Frank’s mother) to her son prohibits usage of marijuana, cocaine, other drugs, and drinks in college and suggests him to be himself with his own belief, not try to be someone else, has Frank’s own pop sense over the background instrumental repeating same dark and slow tripping melody same with Facebook Story and Futura Free.

I love Frank Ocean’s music from his first album. He creates his own high standard music based on the free spirit that doesn’t pay attention to the trend. With the second album, his music made further progress and became more independent being Frank Ocean. That might become possible by being released from major record company by having his own label. No necessary to collaborate with other artists like his first album if he didn’t want to. I think Frank Ocean succeeded to express more of his musical talent and blossomed his originality with his second album. I think that is a healthy music style in this music world filled with many cheesy songs chasing the trend. “Blonde” was worth to wait.

FRANK OCEAN, “BLONDE”

*Source of cover photo: “Nikes” video

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