Frank Ocean’s sophomore album, Blonde, dropped the last week of August, which is stellar because:
1) Frank is one of the best artists out there right now, and 2) My hair was starting to turn grey due to stress from waiting. It was a long four years between his two studio albums.
Release dates came and went without new music. Artists who are friends with Frank continued to tease anxiously waiting fans with promises that the album would be worth the wait. All the while, Frank himself remained quiet. Finally, on August 20th of this year, Frank’s latest project became available on Apple Music. Luckily, Blonde did not disappoint. The album perfectly showcases Frank’s smooth, mellow voice. With minimal instrumentation, each song feels intimate, moody and dreamlike. Overall, there are themes of nostalgia, memory and identity.
Again and again, Frank talks about hindsight, and this album is just that: stories that look back on various relationships and memories. Back in 2012, the artist posted a letter on the social media platform Tumblr titled “thank you’s,” in which he detailed his relationship with his first love, who happened to be a man. In a music industry notorious for homophobic lyrics, Frank bravely stepped out. His first studio album, Channel Orange, features the artist singing about love using male pronouns. Blonde is just as poignant.
Frank sends messages about identity, including race, gender and sexuality. The name of the album – Blonde – is spelled with the feminine variation on iTunes, yet the cover art drops the “e” for the masculine version. The cover also includes a shot of Frank covering his face, his hair dyed green. He also sings about his experiences at gay clubs in “Good Guys.” The first track, “Nikes,” has both high- and low-pitched modulation on Frank’s voice, each providing their own stories and perspectives. This song also includes a shout-out to Trayvon Martin.
Frank doesn’t just sing alone. “Pink + White” features a subtle cameo from the queen herself, Beyonce. “Solo (Reprise)” marked a killer appearance by Andre 3000, in which he raps about artists not writing their own music. (subtly hinting towards Drake – although his latest album, Views, is extremely dance-worthy.)
Blonde refuses to fall neatly into one specific genre or aesthetic. Rather, it remains fluid, much like Frank himself, as he said in a 2012 interview, “The same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and boxes.” Frank refuses to put himself into a particular category, and the same goes for Blonde. It’s vulnerable, it’s raw and it’s pure Frank Ocean.
Blonde is not only an album you’ll want to play again and again – it’s a statement on the diversities of life, a powerful message in the face of inequalities of today.
Here’s hoping Frank waits less than four years to release more music.