Frank Ocean, as you might have known if you’re following any news outlets, or just following me, released two new albums last weekend. Yes, TWO.
Frank’s journey, from releasing nostalgia, ULTRA, his pretty good mixtape, to releasing his debut masterpiece channel ORANGE allowed him to build himself a relatively big following. And ever since, the crowd has been longing for more music from the reclusive genius. After a two-year hide & seek game and hinting at having a finished album and a magazine both titled Boys Don’t Cry. Last week, Frank finally released his album, but to the surprise of everyone, it was a visual album called ENDLESS and not the long promised Boys Don’t Cry. Immediately after the release of the album, news broke that Boys Don’t Cry will follow on the same weekend, but with a different title, Blond(e).
ENDLESS is a something unexpected from Frank, it is an experimental effort and contains tracks that were possibly left out from Blond. And although the album isn’t perfect, it has many great tracks. The Isley Brothers’ cover “At Your Best (You Are Love)”, alongside “Rushes” are the highlights of the album. Both showing the emotional depth of Frank’s vocals and how he can really convey his emotions through music.
On the other hand, we have Blond, which is nothing like channel ORANGE, but that’s not a negative comment. It’s very different from his previous releases, both sonically and lyrically.
The album’s opening track, “NIKES”, is a beautiful mess with a great accompanying music video. It continuously keeps hinting at Frank’s two versions. Two versions of what? It might be the two virgin girls in the video, the two Virgin Mary statues in the video, or, most likely, two versions of him, with it possibly being a comment on his bisexuality. This can also be seen with the album’s title, with blond being the masculine adjective and blonde being the feminine adjective, showing Frank’s two sides. The track is remarkable, and is definitely a good choice for the leading single, but it definitely would have been a much better track without the overly used high/low pitched voices.
Then we have “Ivy”, one of the album’s highlights, where we have Frank singing with an innocent and smooth tone about looking back at a failed relationship and how the relationship was destined to fail.
In “Solo”, Frank sings about being solo, and feeling “so low” emotionally. The track is preceded by “Be Yourself” which is a recorded call from a mother telling her son to be careful and not use alcohol or drugs, possibly showing us how much he appreciates and loves his mother. And let’s not forget “Solo (Reprise)”, the track with the only major vocals on the album by someone other than Frank. We hear André 3000 deliver an explosive verse where he reflects on his past years while also making aggressive comments on one of rap’s major issues, ghostwriters.
The rest of the tracks are just as good, we have the ethereal “Pink + White” with minor vocals by Queen Bey herself. The fantastic “Nights”, where Frank abruptly changes the tone in the middle of the track, marking the end of the first half of the album. Then we have the confident “Self Control” featuring vocals by Slow Hollows’ Austin Feinstein, the heart-breaking “Seigfried”, and the melancholic “White Ferrari”.
The albums will please fans and new listeners alike. Some songs will be appreciated immediately, while others will require a few more listens. Frank has definitely matured in the past four years, and this is a proof of that. They mark a new chapter in his life and I truly can’t wait for the next one, whether it’s out this year, or after five years.
Final verdict: Essential