For any millennial who constantly finds themselves mindlessly scrolling through their social media feeds, I’m sure you have already heard all the buzz that’s been circling around Frank Ocean lately. Ever since the release of his platinum-selling freshman album “Channel Orange” back in 2012, the hype is totally understandable.
However, these last couple years have left fans with what’s seemingly a love/hate relationship with Ocean. Not only did he disappear completely, but to make matters worse, he returned only to tease us about potential release dates. What seemed to be smart and organized marketing (making fans wait makes for more hype), ended up backfiring on him as the consensus on the new album “Blonde” all seems to be the same-good, but not “Channel Orange” good.
“Blonde” picks up right where Frank left us as he continues this journey we call life. Struggling with conflicting and self-distorted feelings such as identity crises, adjusting to a new lifestyle and, of course, heartache, “Blonde” will still get you in the feels just like “Channel Orange” did. However, the difference is the choice of sound that Ocean decided to go with on his sophomore album. “Blonde” is, essentially, more bleak. Most of the 17 tracks sound empty, even potentially great tracks, such as “Solo” and “Self Control,” are catchy and quite beautiful, but have no beat whatsoever. I know, I know, as a musician myself, I understand that perfection knows no bounds, and a great beat does NOT make a song, but I still couldn’t help myself from feeling generally disappointed.
There is an upside, though-the sound works for Frank on tracks like “Pink + White,” in which the upbeat tempo and the free-flowing conscious stream of lyrics are reminiscent of childhood feelings about love and loss. In addition, “Self Control” is a reserved, yet beautiful, acoustic rendition about wanting to make love to the person who first caught your attention that’s similar to the vibe of an Ed Sheeran single. Let us also not forget about the massive list of features on “Blonde,” which includes the likes of Kanye, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar and even Andre 3000 (who goes OFF on “Solo Revised”).
The album, in my opinion, tends to get weaker and weaker as it progresses. What really lost me completely were the tracks like “Siegfried” and “White Ferrari,” which not only lacked a beat, but were very slow and difficult to engage with.
Overall, “Blonde” isn’t a bad project. Actually, it’s not even close to bad, it’s pretty damn good. The issue I, and many others, have is the issue on comparing artists to their previous sound. Take Kanye West, for example. An artist who switched his sound up on every one of his seven solo albums is still facing backlash from fans who want “the old ‘Ye” to reemerge. It’s not fair for artists, Ocean included, who just want the freedom of musical expression and to progress as people. That being said, I’ve noticed my own hypocrisy towards “Blonde.” I so desperately want another album comparable to “Channel Orange” that, even I, tend to forget that he is human just like all of us. “Blonde” is just as much a story about life’s hardships as it is an album.