Frank Ocean - Blonde



Title: Blonde
Artist: Frank Ocean
Release: 20/08/2016
Genre: R & B
Label: Boys Dont Cry

Favourite tracks: I could name all 17 of them but it'd take up too much space.

"I'm sure we're taller in another dimension
You say we're small and not worth the mention
You’re tired of movin', your body's achin'
We could vacay, there's places to go
Clearly this isn't all that there is"

Tomorrow Frank Ocean’s second studio album turns 3. One of the most intriguing and intimate releases of the last decade, Blonde solidified Frank Ocean as one of the greatest R & B artists of all time, proving that his 2012 masterpiece, Channel Orange wasn’t simply a fluke.

Its not very often that an album has had such an immediate and lasting impression on me like Blonde did the first time I heard it. It takes current genre zeitgeists; fusions of pop, R & B, and some aspects of hip hop, and uses them to reflect on themes of youth and adolescence. This is a sound that represents a whole generation of people, particularly those in their adolescence/early adulthood, who have grown up surrounded by the presence of social media, which is one of the main themes of the album. Blonde explores the highs and lows that growing up inevitably comes with; themes of relationships, sexuality, heartbreak etc. that have drastically changed in the last decade due to the nature of technology and social media.

Blonde is exactly one hour long, separated into two sections by an excellent beat switch exactly half way through, during the track nights. This creates a thematic and stylistic division within the album, which can be interpreted in a number of different ways. The masculine spelling of the title "Blond" on the front cover as opposed to the feminine spelling of the actual title "Blonde" suggest the two parts to represent these two things, alluding to themes of sexuality, which is a major theme of the album. There is also the stylistic change between the two sections, from the pop-infused R & B of the first half hour to the darker and more experimental second half, which seem to respectively represent Day and Night, as well as Youth and Adolescence. In the end, Blonde is an extremely intimate yet cryptic album, and I think the fact that it was so clearly meant to represent the listener and their individual interpretation, means that it is all of these things.

Apart from working excellently as a semi-concept album with its two sections, Blonde also has one of the most impressive track-listings of R & B pop songs of the last decade. Nikes, Ivy and Pink + White are all amazing pop songs that are easy relaxing listens, but also act as the perfect thematic setup for this first half of the album. Tracks like White Ferrari and Self Control are some of the most poetic and beautiful songs of the decade, as well as Solo, Siegfried and Godspeed .

"Now and then you miss it, sounds make you cry

Some nights you dance with tears in your eyes"

I realise I have probably just named most of the songs on the album, but its because there really isn’t a weak spot on the entire record. Even the interludes, although at times strange or cryptic, have obvious purpose.

The most impressive track on Blonde though, has to be at its midway point, with the incredible track Nights. It’s in this song that the two halves of Blonde meet, and the album hits a stylistic left-turn. The transition between these two states is one of the most breath-taking parts of the album, and Nights’ two sections are both extremely strong, acting as the keystone that holds the whole album together.

There is a lot to unpack about each track on this album, down to almost every single line, which are brimming with poetry and meaning, but that would take an entire essay. I might do that eventually, but this review is meant to act as a recommendation more than anything for now, and this is a very, very, very big recommendation if you somehow haven’t listened to this album yet. Not only are the lyrics some of the most representative of the current generation, but the sound of the album is masterfully produced, and echoes the strongest aspects of Frank’s inspirations from his contemporaries.

Blonde is undoubtedly one of the greatest albums of the last few years, and it is a clear demonstration that Frank Ocean is one of the greatest artists of this generation. With a new album on the way hopefully in the coming years, Frank Ocean is one of the most promising artists active today.


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