By Emily Weikl
Frank Ocean’s “Blond” is worth the four-year wait. Ever since the highly praised “channel ORANGE” was released in 2012, fans of R&B artist Frank Ocean wondered when he would make another album. Recording hints and details over the years were realized when “Endless,” a 45-minute visual album, was streamed on Ocean’s website in August 2016. “Blond” followed a day later on Apple Music.
A few of Ocean’s songs in “Blond” have a direct message about an issue in society. One of those songs is “Nikes,” and it brings materialism to task with lines like “Said she need a ring like Carmelo/Must be on that white like Othello.” There is also quick reference to Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in July 2012, with Ocean saying that Martin looked “just like me”. Musically the song steady rhythm underneath the lyrics for about three minutes, a note on beat then off. After it stops, the song is more mellow in tone only for that beat to be used again at the very end. Both of those aspects combined make “Nikes” a well done opening song to “Blonde”.
Two songs, “Be Yourself” and “Facebook Story” on the album are spoken word skits performed by family friend Rosie Watson and French producer Sebastian, respectively. Those tracks stand out not only because they are spoken instead of sung but for the messages of self-esteem and real world vs technological relationships in each. On the surface “Facebook Story” seems just like a fictional skit recorded for the album. But according to an interview with the website Pitchfork, “Facebook Story” was something that had happened to Sebastian in a previous relationship.
“Seigfried” deals with aspects of Ocean’s inner and love life and is the backbone of the song. The fifteenth track of “Blond” has a poetic and lyrical quality to it and is rife with metaphor and imagery.
One example is, “Less morose and more present/Dwell on my gifts for a second/A moment one solar flare we’re consumed/So why not spend this flammable paper on the film that’s my life?” The last line could be seen as a metaphor for how fragile life is and to spend time on Earth doing meaningful things.
The song’s title is possibly a reference to the mythical Norse hero Siegfried. Ocean repeats the words “I’m not brave” multiple times in “Seigfried,” a definable trait of a hero is bravery.
Besides Watson and Sebastian, Ocean has other guests on the album and their contributions do not go unnoticed. The fast paced “Solo (Reprise)” is sung solely by Andre 3000 of the band Outkast, with whom Ocean has collaborated with before on “channel ORANGE”. And in going with the spoken word style of two prior songs, the second section of “Futura Free” features Ocean’s younger brother Ryan Breaux in an interview clip. Breaux is a professional skater and Illegal Civilization member Sage Elesser. Beyoncé’s vocals are in the outro to “Pink and White” and they add a layer of ambience to the track. Ocean worked with Beyoncé before, alongside Andre 3000 on the song “Superpower” from her titular album in 2014.
If another four years go by without Ocean releasing another album, hopefully his latest output will be enough to hold his fans over for a while. After “channel ORANGE” was released fans clamored for more.
An album was teased to come out during April 2015 for release in July. The month came and went and left some fans to think that the Ocean was deceiving them. It a little more than a year, to fully complete “Blond.” Judging from the depth of lyrics and detail of the music behind them, it makes sense that Ocean needed that time. He wanted to make something that listeners would truly feel connected to, like they did with his former album.
As a whole, “Blond” is a strong R&B offering by Ocean that resembles his previous album and was most definitely worth waiting for.