Redemption: a Frank Ocean Story

I’ve needed a little over a week to recover from Frank Ocean’s surprise Aug. 20 Blonde album release, an album which may go down as the most anticipated album of all time.

Four years after his previous masterpiece project, channel ORANGE, it seemed like the world was at a standstill waiting for something new from Mr. Ocean. There had been rumors of a new album release days before Aug. 20 and we were all collectively let down when it wasn’t. This letdown was followed with a series of memes and Twitter posts from Frank Ocean fans alike because that’s how the Internet expresses their feelings over everything pop culture.

Ocean has been teasing the album for some time now with several ambiguous posts on his Tumblr and other social media. We were all in “Frank’s Madhouse” and couldn’t escape the torment from all the teasing and uncertainty. How he managed to avoid all media during this album drought is something I’ll never understand. There were even some fan theories that he was abducted by the government because he was a national treasure.

So why all this hype for a new album? As I mentioned before, Ocean’s previous album channel ORANGE was a masterpiece. It featured a number of late night jams that I’ve definitely replayed over and over again on car rides home. The album took your hand with it on a magical and psychedelic journey. Ocean showed that he is truly a Renaissance Man of our music generation.

Aug. 20 may go down as a landmark date in music history. People will be asking you years from now: “Where were you when Blonde dropped?” I was laying in bed scrolling down my Facebook timeline when I saw someone had posted an article about Frank Ocean releasing his new album. At first I thought it was too good to be true. Was I dreaming? Was the exit to Frank’s Madhouse now open? Then I saw that the album was being streamed exclusively on Apple Music and I instantly started my free trial with absolutely no intent of renewing it.

Blonde picks up exactly where channel ORANGE left but takes you even further. Ocean took four years to make sure he didn’t take a step back. In fact, it’s apparent his talents have only improved. Before I go any further, I’m going to tell you to drop everything you’re doing right now and go listen to Blonde. I’ll see you when you get back.

You can really feel Ocean’s heart and soul on this album. At some parts of the album, we hear Ocean’s commentary on what’s happened in the four years since his last project. In the album’s opening track “Nikes”, Ocean writes “R.I.P. Trayvon, that nigga look like me.” This reference to Trayvon Martin is only a taste of the social injustice remarks in the album’s lyrics.

Other themes across the album include mortality and living life to its fullest as well as nostalgia.

More tracks on the album recount Ocean’s personal experiences. In “White Ferrari”, Ocean describes memories from one of his favorite cars. These memories include being on drugs. He writes, “We got so familiar, spending each day of the year, white Ferrari. Good times. Good times.” Fittingly enough, the slow paced, almost gospel, tone of the track goes well with a late night car ride. “Seigfried” describes a past relationship that Ocean seems to take the blame over ending. One of the more emotional tracks on the album, “Seigfried” is a perfect example of how Ocean can lay a variety of sounds over his lyrics to make it sound really magical. We hear strings and sounds reminiscent of a retro video game, a common genre of sounds we heard on channel ORANGE. This track ends with Ocean repeating “I’d do anything for you,” which is most likely directed at that former lover spoken of throughout.

Much like channel ORANGE, Blonde is meant to be played in its entire track order. Each song seems to connect to each other seamlessly. Filler tracks like “Be Yourself” and “Facebook Story” are simple audio recordings but still tell a great story.

One of my favorite tracks from the album is “Self Control”. It’s an acoustic, easygoing four minutes that tells a story of someone trying to exhibit self-control when a stranger woos them. Ocean’s vocals really shine here and give a melancholy tone to the track. He sings,” I came to visit you cause you see me like a UFO. That’s like never cause I made you use your self control and you made me lose my self control.” Is this borderline creepy? Maybe. Or is it a story of a grade school playground infatuation?

Another favorite of mine is “Solo.” Like “White Ferrari”, “Solo” has a gospel feel to it and it works so well. This is a euphoric track about disaster and terror in the world. In times like this, Ocean suggests smoking marijuana to bring you heaven while there’s “hell on Earth.”

Blonde is a redemption story. Ocean has let down and disappointed fans, including myself, since first teasing a new album years ago. The Internet had almost given up on by him making his actions a recurring meme, that’d we get so-and-so before Frank Ocean dropped a new album. Fear not, music listeners and enthusiasts. Ocean has outdone himself with this one. At points, Blonde will make your hairs raise. At other points, it’ll make your heart ache or just make you simply smile. Blonde is Frank Ocean’s diary and he’s letting you read it.

In what may be the most hyped and anticipated album of all time, Blonde manages to keep cool under the pressure and deliver the goods to our ears. It’s full of Ocean’s very personal lyrics, chilling vocals and amazing production efforts. We waited for this for a while. It was worth it. See you again in another four years, Frank.

Gabe Hewitt

Gabe is a junior mass media student at MSU. He's usually up for anything. You can find him on Twitter (@gabehewitt) or you can email him at gabriel.hewitt@mnsu.edu.

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