By: Caleb Texeira
Ever the perplexing figure, Frank Ocean continues to generate questions among his fans even after the release of his second studio album, “Blonde”. The cover reads “Blond,” while iTunes lists it as “Blonde.” Why is it called “Blonde” if his hair is green on the cover? Nevertheless, the four year wait between Ocean’s first album Channel Orange was well worth it, as the album lived up to every ounce of expectation and hype it received.
Music writers characterize Ocean’s music as idiosyncratic in style and delivery. His sound is honest and intimate, and while his approach is more often associated with emo-minded rock than with R&B, it is clear that Ocean is aiming to change the music industry with a style all his own. The unique combination of old-school organs and authentic singing talent make woozy sonic concoctions that both mesmerize and invoke introspection.
Following the release of the album, Frank Ocean earned his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Released on August 20, “Blonde” topped the list with 276,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending August 25, according to Nielsen Music. Only Drake’s fifth studio album “Views” (1.04 million) and Beyonce’s “Lemonade” (653,000) registered higher sales totals in their first weeks this year. “Blonde” is the third independently distributed No. 1 album in 2016. It follows Blink-182’s “California” and The Lumineers’ “Cleopatra.”
The album is supported by lead single “Nikes” which is supplemented with a music video that was released with the album. Hailed as a “visual masterpiece” by Metacritic, “Nikes” highlights Ocean’s signature style with a powerful mosaic of party culture that is both perplexing yet enlightening, giving fans a new lens on how Ocean has evolved as a performer and person in his four year break from the music. Taking place in a neon-lit nightclub with countless reasons not to be there, Ocean dons eyeliner and a mask in the middle of the night while driving through his slumbering city. Tributes to A$AP Yams and Pimp C appeared in the video. Both died due to an overdose of “purple drank”, a mixture of promethazine and codeine that many rappers and hip hop artists use. The most glaring tribute, however, was to Trayvon Martin, shown in a photo that Ocean clutches.
The album was filled with features from well-known recording artists. “Pink + White” features vocals from Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar provided ad-libs for “Skyline To” and Andre 3000 kicks an electric verse on his track “Solo (Reprise)”. Other standouts from the album include “Seigfried”, a powerful and compelling song about a potential past lover of Frank’s, and “Ivy”, which explores the ideas of growing up and learning from past mistakes.
“My favorite song on the album was Ivy, because it was nostalgic and allowed me to reminisce about the good times.” said Parker Hawk, senior.
Despite many delays, rumored releases, and a name change from “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Blonde” is Frank Ocean’s best work yet. The textbook definition of a trailblazer, Ocean seeks to leave no stone unturned on his rise to the top of the music industry.