WORDS BY BEN FREEMAN
The anticipation towards Frank Ocean’s sophomore album was unmistakable, unimaginable and unrivalled. Patience is a virtue; a virtue which, for many of us, ceased to exist since the rumours of the album’s release began.
After the rumours, came the questions. “When’s Frank gunna drop the album? IS Frank gunna drop the album?”. It appeared Mr. Ocean’s 2nd studio album was to become music’s greatest disappearing act since Dre promised us Detox.
But this was not the case. Critics were silenced. Questions were answered, with incredible finesse. The final product is Blonde. Here’s some of my favourite tracks, and why.
The first track, Nikes, perhaps differentiates from much of the album, being one of the least minimalistic and vocal-reliant tracks. This is demonstrated by the experimental use of different pitch tones from the 1st verse and chorus, to the 2nd verse. This could be Frank alluding to alternative states of mind – a mind of sobriety in the 2nd verse that sees his natural voice dominate, compared to a mind that is perhaps drug induced, yet equally visionary, in the 1st verse and chorus – hence why his voice has been synthetically edited.
The content of Nikes vilifies the concept of material wealth which comes hand in hand with consumerism, and what greater metaphor to use than the Nike brand? Adorned by many, but for what? People are willing to sacrifice all integrity in order to commence on a pursuit for money (or Nikes, as the metaphor goes). Frank knows, however, that these bitches want his money – they don’t want him. This concept occupies the chorus with excellent wordplay. The fact that the 1st verse and chorus are artificially edited could be an attempt of irony because he’s discussing that people aren’t real and are simply chasing his money. Nikes introduces us perfectly to the impressionistic piece artwork that lay ahead. Let it be said, impressionism is nothing foreign to Frank – he’s dabbled in it more than briefly in his previous work, but what separates Blonde from his previous work is just how overt this impressionism is.
Ivy, the succeeding track, follows a more similar trend to many of the other songs on the album, in the sense that the editing to the vocals feels minimal. In Ivy, Frank documents growing up and his vulnerability in his first experience of love – the same first love that was the subject in his now famous ‘coming out’ letter. The notion of vulnerability is clear from the very start – “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you love me, the start of nothing”. This exemplifies from the word go that this track is going to elaborate on Frank’s ill-judgement and resulting pain. We learn about Frank’s love in the excellently told, nostalgic format we have become so accustomed to.
The only major feature on the album is delivered excellently from the veteran, Andre 3000, in Solo (reprise). His experience in the game makes Frank look like a newcomer, and although their music styles differ, Andre 3K’s soul-touching poeticism complements Frank’s artistry majestically. Despite the fast-paced lyrical delivery of the Outkast member, his feature does not sound out of place on an album in which the majority of songs are slow and sung (as opposed to being rapped). This is an ode to how well crafted the album is.
White Ferrari. Frank is a big fan of cars – enough so to feature his favourite one on his nostalgic, Ultra album artwork. It’s believed that frank chooses to name this track White Ferrari for a number of reasons. White is a universal symbol of purity, so this could represent his innocence and honesty in the love he experienced. The relevance of the Ferrari is most likely to be in relation to its badge – a horse. In many cultures, horses symbolise a balance of power and wisdom, and in Christianity particularly, the white she represents death. Therefore the connotation of wisdom could be in reference to the way Frank feels when experimenting with psychedelic drugs – a prominent theme throughout the album. This could also link closely to the second suggestion of the white horse representing death, as many people have claimed to have experienced heaven-like dimensions when high on psychedelics . Although these are only suggestions, one thing can be said in certainty – the vocals on this track are angelic. They are superlative.
Frank Ocean takes us on a journey, illustrating his past experiences in a way that many R&B or soul artists simply do not have the capacity to achieve or even imitate. This is the reason so many people feel such a personal connection with Frank and his music. He executes his music in a way that makes us feel so comfortable because he makes us believe there’s someone out there who really does understand us, and artists like that are immortalised.
the album is raw – it’s a blank canvas that has been delicately painted with explosive effect. Frank exposes himself entirely, but beautifully. In the process of doing so, he creates a gown, woven from our admiration and respect for him. It would be wrong to compare Blond to his previous works, rather we should simply appreciate the catalogue of excellence Frank has blessed us with.
Somewhere, Frank Ocean is now sat basking in all his glory, unparalleled. He is the greatest R&B artist, male vocalist and songwriter of our generation.