Frank Ocean. A man we were all convinced had disappeared off the face of the earth, that’s how long we were waiting for this new album. Every year since the release of his breakthrough solo project ‘Channel Orange’, the question has been posed as to when the follow up would come out. Countless amounts of missed deadlines and public eye disappearances later, and Frank Ocean finally did it. He dropped a video on Apple Music which he called ‘Endless’, there was no song list but we didn’t care, Frank’s tones were beautiful and moving and it was a blessing to have him back. A day later, he released ‘Blonde’, the official album with all different songs from ‘Endless’. So, is this really worth the wait, or will the R&B artist fail to deliver the necessary quality given the 4 year hype?
Nikes – 8/10
Hands down the weirdest song you’ll hear all year, I know it’s been four years but I know for a fact Frank’s voice hasn’t changed that much. I am of course joking and am aware that he has added an effect to his vocals to bring them up a few octaves and confirm his lunacy on this song. Anyway, the beat is phenomenal, like seriously good, one of the best this year in fact. Psychedelic, soulful and full of style. The song message itself is all about gold diggers and how they crave the finer things in life without needing to do anything for them. Even with that quite negative message aimed at these girls, Frank does show himself as available to help them with sexual favours, which in itself toys with us fans even more than ever due to the recent question marks over his sexuality. There are ebbs and flows to this song, peaks and troths if you will and it’s such a shame, because I feel that with a proper vocal on it, this would be without question one of the songs of the year, as demonstrated towards the end when Frank switches to his usual voice and it’s brilliant. Even with that in mind, I do see why he’s added that effect on the vocals as it does fit in with that psychedelic aspect to the beat, perhaps a drug fuelled moment. Great intro, albeit absolutely bonkers.
Ivy – 8/10
He’s very soft in his delivery here as each word seems hesitant to leave his mouth, either way the tone is absolutely perfect. The instrumental is cool too, it’s very much a guitar heavy sound with a bit of an electro funk wobble, I really like it as it’s still understated even with all of those aspects on display. Lyrically it’s on point as he sings about growing up with this person who he clearly loves but there are still troubles deep down. It’s a weakness deep down within Frank which does suggest to me that this is an uncovered homosexual relationship he’s singing about, perhaps something he’s getting out of his system to set the record straight. It’s a beautiful love anthem but my word does it have a bizarre ending, it’s just a scream from Frank as his voice is so massively modified you can hear the distinct electronic wobble as he struggles on a note. Really good again with the correct dose of weird.
Pink + White – 8.5/10
Smooth jazz beat on this one, sounds like a Tyler, The Creator experimental venture for the most part and I absolutely love it. Frank’s voice just slots in perfectly, it sounds so strong and mature. He follows this maturity within his tones by acting far more grown up lyrically here too, singing about past experiences and how he’s learning from them and becoming a better person as a result. At the same time he’s also having plenty of thanks for this special someone who he rates as a “glory from above” thanks to the amazing times they’ve spent together. I like the overlapping of the vocals towards the end as it harmonises very well and gives Frank the chance to be melodic while at the same time ply his rap trade once again. This is another great track, arguably better than the first two.
Be Yourself – N/A/10
This isn’t really a song but irregardless of what it is, it’s motivational and it’s moving. It’s not Frank Ocean speaking but it’s a woman, more than likely to be his mum, who is talking about the welfare of college students and their consumption of alcohol and drugs. It’s a hard hitting message about not being drawn into social norms, being yourself and not involving yourself in anything which can cause harm. I think it’s really fitting and a very important aspect of the album in that important life message he’s been taught and how it moulded Frank Ocean into the man he is now.
Solo – 9/10
This is Frank Ocean at his absolute best, the perfect balance between rapping and singing all about how cool he feels and his relationship stories. The beat on this song is a bit disjointed when we hear that screech on the odd occasion but in general it’s a very smooth organ tune which give Frank the chance to demonstrate his vocal range. I do really like the lyrics on this song too, it’s a bouncy and fun rap verse before switching to a more serious result in the chorus talking about how he feels like he’s better off “solo” or single. It’s a stripped back track full of soul and energy, I absolutely love it and can’t say enough about it.
Skyline To – 7.5/10
Once again the instrumental is more band oriented with that subtle guitar tune along with the extremely faint drums which appear on the track on very limited occasions. It’s a sensual love track with the occasional switch up into some fairly bizarre lyrics about car gears. It is still quite a heartbreaking song with that crushing thought of “summer’s not as long as it used to be” which could perhaps suggest a longing or a desire for something he had in a previous summer but not having the time to find it. Frank’s voice is amazing on this song, note for note he’s fantastic and does manage to keep us intrigued with some pretty sketchy backing harmonies along with some wacky rap bars midway through. It’s a good song still with a great motive behind it.
Self Control – 8/10
Nice fade from the previous track into this one with some faint wave crashes but any similarity completely vanishes with this strange robotic vocal at the start which is just strange. Once Frank’s vocals actually kick in they’re chilling and rhythmic, a stellar performance and arguably his strongest on this album. It’s just a shame we don’t get more of it and instead have to endure some very weird noises in the chorus, once again adding that awful chipmunk effect. It’s a beautiful ballad once again about how he’s falling apart because of love and perhaps the robotic and electronic sounds are a sign of his madness, the crazed and deranged direction that love has taken him down. It’s a great song with beautiful vocals and another strong message, what more can we ask for?
Good Guy – 7/10
A very short and snappy track with a cool smooth piano tune in the background and a muffled, walkie talkie effect vocal from Frank which varies in pace and seems to move up and down in octaves in a matter of seconds. Smooth lyricism and vocals again but it’s quite strange how we have this sudden change at the end to a conversation about having his heart broken. It’s a short and sweet track, I liked it and this time I felt like I could get on board with the irregular sounding vocals.
Nights – 9/10
Sway jam full of personality and swagger, it really offers a refreshing change up from the soft ballads we’ve heard previously. This time we see a more care free Frank, someone who refers to women as “bitches” and has sex with them rather than catching feelings, it’s a side Frank Ocean rarely finds so it’s nice to hear. The theme of this track is ‘day and night’ as Frank sings about daily routines and how he spends his time, as well as what the generic person may do in order to “get money.” Consistent links to sex, weed and money is an unlikely turn from Frank but I like this confident side and it really gives him a new lease on this album. The bridge is just crazy, a noise fit to give anyone a seizure but what it drops into is heavenly, that last minute of the song is as smooth as it gets, I love it so much. What a blinding song this is, well done Frank.
Solo (Reprise) – 8.5/10
Another short one and it’s a true blessing. Andre 3000 of OutKast blesses us with his presence and the verse he gives us is beyond good, absolute genius from one of the best to ever do it. It’s an amazing switch up from Frank’s soft and poetic tones to hear this raw, rapid fire verse from Andre and it’s one of the highlights of the album. Then again, anything which has Andre 3000 on it is going to be a success story. I also like the fact it’s only 1 and a half minutes long, it gives you that impression of blink and you’ll miss, as though Andre walked in, did that verse and walked out.
Pretty Sweet – 7/10
It starts off sounding like it could be a Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven B-side with those god awful strained string instruments provided from the orchestra but luckily they don’t last and the song takes more of a sane shape. Having said that, it’s still very much like an interlude with this ongoing harmony we hear and no sign of a clear and concise Frank verse so it does seem as though the song will dwindle into nothingness. The drop with about a minute to go does a lot to alter that view point and add a slight drum and bass twist to the song before ending with a children’s choir who beautifully closed an all round quite odd track. As I said before its nothing more than an interlude and a transitional song but even so it’s okay and has some nice dimensions to it which have been effectively placed.
Facebook Story – N/A/10
Yung Lean, telling a story, about a girl from Facebook, on a Frank Ocean album. Incredible moment. This girl is quite crazy I have to say, accusations of cheating because he didn’t add her on Facebook seems a bit extreme and perhaps shows the issues not only Frank but Lean himself has gone through in relationships that haven’t necessarily gone to plan. I mean there’s not much more to say about this one, it’s not a song really so I can’t give it a rating, nice touch though.
Close To You – ???/10
This song has an early 00s Garage vibe to it, it sounds like the sort of beat Craig David would gobble up on his Born To Do It album. At only 1 minute 26 seconds long, it’s hardly an epic but it has its spot and it’s worth on the album.
It’s a bit stop-start for my liking, however and I maybe could’ve done with a bit more clarity as to what the song was actually about. All its achieved in doing is making me slightly confused as to why those last two “songs” were featured.
White Ferrari – 6.5/10
A soft song all about coasting around in his, believe it or not, “White Ferrari.” I absolutely love the deeper tones of vocals he uses, making it sound more like he grovelling at the start of the song but once he changes it up he sounds crisp and brilliant. I also really like the backing track of literally just an acoustic guitar keeping in the background and allowing for Frank to use his own voice layered as an instrument, it’s really effective. For me the song does tail off a bit towards the end when he starts to lose the concept of the song and instead places a higher level of focus on this bizarre futuristic theme instead which is a shame given how far he could have potentially taken that car journey aspect. It is a nice song at its core but I can’t escape the wavy nature of it all and it gets confused within itself at times. Good song but nothing outstanding here.
Seigfried – 6.5/10
Not the most common sit name going so that gives you enough signals already. Frank’s vocals are haunting and powerful to the core, he has such soul in his tone he can make any song so strong and that’s exactly what he does here. A simple backing track of occasional key playing and guitar strumming becomes a great setup for Frank as he sings about his lifestyle and how he wants to go against society’s norms of “2 kids in the swimming pool” and states he’d rather “live outside.” It does, for me, sound like a cut off the most recent Radiohead album instrumentally just with some more powerful pipes at the forefront with Frank replacing Thom Yorke. The bridge saves this song, as it appears to be fading away Frank brings out an echoed rap about dreams which seems to overlap in concepts of dreams it’s fairly odd but perhaps gives you an insight into the twisted and frazzled mindset of Frank Ocean. The song does fizzle out eventually which is a shame because it’s a soft beauty at its best, but there are moments in this song which drag on far longer than they should. A hit and miss track really but the song’s positives are great.
Godspeed – 9/10
I think if any song on this album had the David Bowie influence then it’ll be this one, I understand he was mentioned in the feature list of producing and working on this album but nobody is really sure what capacity he worked on it. It’s a magnificent vocal performance which is full of soulful passion and heart. It suits with the organ and choir combination in the backing track brilliantly and makes for a truly beautiful sound. It’s got a real gospel sound to it as well as a synth pop vibe buried somewhere underneath the holy imagery. Beautiful track from start to finish this one, a powerful ballad which never once slows down in terms of quality.
Futura Free – 7/10
The longest song on the album at a whopping 9 minutes long, it’s a real ordeal to sit through all of this, especially given how strange it starts off where he’s rapping to his “mama” about all the things he’s doing now he’s famous, it’s a good verse when he gets into the swing of it, apart from when he talks about the size of a certain sexual organ of his, that bit is full and lasts far too long, which is quite ironic in a way. The whole song just seems crazy, it’s like a freestyle session at the end of a recording but in a way I kind of like that, it’s a raw and uncut insight into the process of Frank Ocean. I love the reference to old friend Tyler, The Creator “sleeping on my sofa” as a real nostalgia trip to show how far back they go as friends, and how it’s more than just the music which binds them together. The whole thing is a constant mix up between song and general recording which can throw you off guard at times. We then have a bizarre spout of silence before a snippet of an interview which then cuts into a soft beat, it dips in and out for a while, just insanity at times. I’m lost for words at that as a closing track, you feel like you need to re-evaluate everything and question what the hell you have just listened to. The song itself was good but everything else just seemed so pointless apart from the occasional lesson of friendship within the interview snippets.
Overall – 8/10
Right, I would try and be logical about this but I’d be kidding myself. In short, I don’t have a bloody clue what’s gone on with that album, all I do know is that I love it, I seriously love it and want to hear it again. I think that’s the hook he wanted, that intrigue and that mystery as to why he thought those elements would fit together and what he’s trying to say at certain times. From what I’ve gathered, he’s a very confused soul but an incredibly talented one and one who should be celebrated for this release because it was worth the memes and the wait. Please, if you haven’t already, listen to this album. It’s smooth, it’s soulful and it’s passionate while at the same time being completely bonkers and weirdly electronic.