Frank Ocean Goes Blonde


Jada Phelps


After releasing his Grammy-winning Channel ORANGE and 2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank Ocean was flooded with fame, a level of attention he avoided: dodging press, turning down guest verses, deleting his Twitter. The continuous teasing of a new record brought out outraged fans and explosions of angry Tweets and posts on social media.


Slowly, hope was being lost and sights of Ocean were little to none. No one thought we would hear from him again. But, after four years of patiently waiting, Ocean hits us. With another ingenious, storytelling album; naturally, this is what he does best.


Blonde, spelled “Blond” on the album cover, is full of emotion. The album flows out a story of sorrow and grief. These songs aren’t meant for marching, they serve a purpose.


With more upbeat songs like “Nights” to the more mellow songs of “Nikes” and “White Ferrari”. Ocean doesn’t cease to fail when it comes to making beautiful and unique songs. Most would think that his album is just background noise until Ocean’s voice comes out in a shining spotlight.


On Blonde, dizziness is a sensation. The album is by turns oblique, smolderingly direct, forlorn, funny, dissonant and gorgeous; a vertiginous marvel of digital-age psychedelic pop.


Ocean’s songs connect directly to ugly moments in recent American history. On the lead single “Nikes,” Ocean wraps his voice in a woozy distortion and pivots in space of just two lines from blunt loverman braggadocio (“If you need d***, I got you”) to mournfulness over Trayvon Martin’s killing (“that n**** look just like me”).


There are other moments where ugly American History crashes in – memories of how Hurricane Katrina uprooted Ocean’s bubble up on “Nights” – but his main preoccupation is romance.


He approaches the subject from oblique angles, time-shifting the different phases of relationships like he’s got them loaded on a DVR: skipping from the blossoming of love directly into its demise, backing up a bit, leaving out big chunks. “I broke your heart last week”, he sings on “Ivy,” “You’ll probably feel better by the weekend.” When the chorus comes, he spits “The start of nothing/ I could hate you now.”


Ocean has an extreme facility with offbeat love songs, and can distill complex emotions: “I’m not like him, but I’ll mean something to you,” he sings to a lover on “Nike’s,” diagramming an asymmetrical relationship in just ten words.


Listening closely, you can envision the moodiness and simplicity of how these songs were recorded. In a room, sitting comfortably with a single microphone, spilling out lyrics as if they were the last he would ever perform. Maybe, they are the last he will ever perform? That is your typical Frank Ocean.