Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond(e)’ album isn’t even a year old, yet already it has knocked down a number of cultural and musical barriers, from soulful soundwaves to homosexual honesty and embrace. It sailed gloriously to the top of my albums of the year list for 2016 with the reason being quite painstakingly obvious. It is the work of a sheer genius and the fact it hasn’t been universally acknowledged as such truly saddens me. Even the title is a piece of art as he balances both the masculine and feminine spelling of the word ‘Blond(e)’ to show both sides (exactly like he says on new track ‘Chanel’). Here are five reasons as to why Frank Ocean hit a home run with his long-awaited ‘Channel Orange’ follow up and why ‘Blond(e) should be respected as one of the greatest albums this generation has seen.
1. It is already hailed as an LGBTQ+ celebration album.
We all remember that Tumblr post. In 2012 Frank Ocean announced to the world that as a 19 year old he fell in love with a man, sharing a summer of joy with his sweetheart. The open nature of Frank was embraced by all in the music community and he captured all of these emotions on ‘Blond(e)’. He has created an album in which people can feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, he has given everyone the confidence to live their own lives to their maximum potentials, irregardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
2. It is the ultimate barrier breaker of an album.
Sonically you’ll do well to find an album which captures the concept it intends to follow better than ‘Blond(e)’ does. The space-age tint of ‘Nikes’ and ‘Nights’ compliments the low-fi smoothness of ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Good Guy’ to create a masterpiece which is truly impossible to tie down to a specific genre. Taking a simple glance at the sampling and production credits of this album tells you all you need to know about the project’s diversity, with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 adding hip-hop flavours while David Bowie and even The Beatles has Frank dip his toes into the murky waters of British icons. Name another album which has the king of hip-hop and the kings of rock music on the same project. I’ll wait.
3. It is Frank’s coming of age and maturity.
Frank Ocean used Blond to display a huge step in his career, from the kooky innocence of Odd Future to the serious anticipation of a musical role model. When ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ was followed by ‘Channel Orange’ it appeared as though Frank would be a great R&B artist who spoke on love and passion, somewhat surface level emotions. What came from ‘Blond(e)’ was a triumphant rise through the ashes as Frank followed on from his previous projects with the raw emotion of love and then moved beyond that to greater issues. The likes of race, homosexuality, depression and cultural acceptance have been challenged here and helped it become an instant classic.
4. It ranks very highly in just about ever publication’s albums of the year list.
It may not come as a surprise to most, seeing as it was the most eagerly anticipated album of the year along with Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’, that ‘Blonde’ was a high scorer amongst many critics. It eventually ended up ranking in just about every top 10 imaginable, from NME (10th) to Rolling Stone (5th). The fact that such a wide variety of publications placed it in the top 10 suggests that no matter the genre of expertise, the raw talent of Frank Ocean shines through on this album and there’s no possible way you can deny it’s brilliance. I ranked it at number one and even that didn’t feel like enough gratification for the album’s mastery.
5. It places Frank upon the very pinnacle of artistry esteem.
This album showed every single one of us that Frank Ocean has a gift, it added a silk touch beauty to his discography and crystallised what we already knew about his sensual and stunning vocal delivery. Taking influence from the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson before him, Frank took it to the barebones of his musical ability; ditching the pop sounds of 2012’s ‘Channel Orange’ and instead laying himself bare with a skeletal stripped back project which is as mesmerising as it is haunting. The album appears sketchy and all over the place upon the surface, but it provides layers the more you listen to it, a well-drawn out affair of heartache and denial which will, in my opinion at least, weigh up alongside some of the all time great singer-songwriter projects. After all, Frank is the best of the lot in this generation when it comes to being a solo singer/songwriter, we now have the documents on record to prove it.