On August 20, 2016, the illusive crooner that is Frank Ocean released Blonde (an audio album), Endless (a visual album) and a magazine. After four years of waiting, I would say he made up for the void in our hearts and ears. So, let’s talk about the audio gift.
Blonde, as accepted and used in American culture refers to hair color or a woman with light colored hair. But could there be more to it? Blond (sans the “e”) refers to a light person or thing. Blond(e) is a light yellow and we know that Frank Ocean has touched on the importance of colors and their meanings, see Channel Orange. Yellow is known for stimulation for the nervous system, sharpening of memory, freshness and joy. Yellow is also aligned with communication, analysis, logic and curiosity.
Blonde embodies what yellow means and is channeled through the artistry of Frank Ocean. Blonde also symbolizes duality and the struggle within. We recognize the versatility of Ocean’s lyrics to sway between heterosexual and bisexual but that is also displayed in the spelling of the album name and the feeling of the album from one point to another.
All through the album, Frank touches on sensuality (particularly past relationships) and his use of marijuana for the stimulation of his nervous system. A good portion of this album is a reflection on relationships (with friends, Frank’s mother and old flames) which is a test to the sharpening of memory as he steps back to give new perspective on what was and what could’ve been.
Listening to the album the first few times made we wonder if this is hat we spent waiting four years for, as a whole. More listens confirmed that this is what we waited four years four. No, this is not Channel Orange by any means but it is yet a masterpiece. Where the previous album felt more like a concise story, this album is more of an attempt for Frank to free his mind of past incidences that may have confused or haunted him.
Starting with “Nikes”, Frank addresses materialism, the killing of Trayvon Martin and unrequited love. The deeper cuts that many look for from Frank all control the latter end of the album, “Seigfried” being one of the better. Frank finds himself dueling with his sexuality as opposed to traditional masculinity. He exclaims that he’d rather live outside in his happiness than succumb to societal demands. A great point of experimentation for this album comes with its features. Artists like Kim Burrell, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake and more offered their vocal talents to the creation of Blonde. Although the list of features is more extensive than anticipated, many are shrouded in subtly and effects to blend Ocean’s vocals with the featured artist. It’s an interesting take and reflects what he created for the visual album, Endless, where the project sounded like one continuous song.
Frank Ocean shows growth with his second studio album while successfully stepping away from anticipations. We’ve been given a personal diary from Frank featuring another soliloquy from his mother where his music (in content) is as bare as his skin on the cover yet hidden like his eyes. We still don’t know everything about Mr. Ocean, but we still know so much after listening to this album.
After waiting four years, we have been removed from expectations and that allowed me to be more open to the reception of this album. I believe that was an intended idea from Frank but if not, it worked nonetheless. My personal favorites include “Ivy”, “Pink + White”, “Solo” and its reprise, “Self Control” and “Nights”. Give the album a listen on a solo nighttime drive. The channel yellow seems to be the new lane for Frank Ocean, let’s see where it takes us.
On a scale of 1-10, ten being the highest, I give Blonde an 8.