Frank Ocean makes a stand in his album ‘Blonde’
I remember listening to Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinkin ‘Bout You’ on repeat for at least a week. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs of all time. Ironically, it’s been some time since I thought about Frank Ocean, this was until about a month ago whilst browsing Apple Music for some new songs to procrastinate to. There it was, Frank Ocean’s, now two-year-old and to me ‘newish’, album, that I somehow had never come across. The album cover instantly suggested that the album itself would be packed with rich and emotional musical pieces, and I think it is fair to say that I most definitely was not ready for the lyrical sensations that were ahead of me. With this in mind, I have chosen 5 of my favourite songs from the Blonde album that, track by track, I will review.
The album opens with ‘Nikes’, a single that, throughout, makes a number of societal and political stabs. Most distinctive is Ocean’s lyrical comment on the ultimate failings of the justice system, particularly in the US, regarding young African Americans – an explicit political statement present in the entire album; specifically concerning the incident with Trayvon Martin in 2012, ‘RIP Trayvon.’ The song also addresses class and materialism, using falsetto he talks about a relationship that is based off such materialism; ‘All you want is Nikes, but the real ones.’ These lyrics quite overtly comment on the way society is obsessed with perception and judgement.
The following song is ‘Ivy’, a personal favourite of mine. An offbeat love song where the lyrics see Ocean ponder over a failed relationship. The bliss that is enforced through the accompaniment of palm muting and lucid pitches makes for a nostalgic piece of music. This song also inherits the high-pitched vocals that Ocean seems to be in favour of in this album.
‘Pink + White’ features the very Beyoncé herself and opens with a tropical introduction followed by Ocean’s clean vocals. The lyrics make it obvious that Ocean is referring to someone he is romantically involved with – ‘You showed me love, glory from above.’
‘Self Control’ begins with a pitched-up version of rap before Ocean makes his entrance serenading listeners with his gentle, moderately husky voice. This is another song where Ocean talks of trying to ‘woo’ his assumed love interest, however, throughout this song it becomes clear that it is about the journey of a break up; ‘Keep a place for me’ and ‘Wish I was there, wish we’d grown up on the same advice, and our time was right.’
‘Nights’ is another song that uproots some disheartening moments throughout US history; including hurricane Katrina ‘After, ‘Trina hit I had to transfer campus’, together with elusive remarks about the impenetrable issue of gun violence ‘Shooters killing left and right.’ It is quite remarkable how Ocean manages to embed such expressive thoughts about controversial issues within the world today into impressive musical pieces. Frank certainly knows how to make a difference through music.
Why is this my favourite album? It’s different, meaningful and almost marks the foundation of a completely new genre – Ocean has stretched boundaries concerning contemporary R ‘n’ B and Psychedelic pop. It is demonstrative of the effort and passion that has been infused by Ocean in order to create such a stimulating album. The Blonde album has been described as ‘minimalist, avant-garde R ‘n’ B’, ‘disjointed’ and ‘dreamlike’, but for me the only word that springs to mind when describing this album is genius.
You can purchase Frank Ocean’s Blonde as a digital download from Amazon Music.