By Hannah Rogers
Frank Ocean dropped his new album Blonde this past weekend after being completely MIA for almost 4 years since the release of Channel Orange; Ocean’s claim to fame and the birthplace of many gems such as “Thinkin Bout U,” and “Super Rich Kids.” Instagram was bombarded with posts of the Blonde album cover, showing Ocean in the shower with his hair newly dyed a ripe green color. Kendall Jenner shared a post with the caption, “FRANK OCEAN IS ALIVE”, along with a multitude of other stars sharing their support.
The dizzyingly long awaited Blonde challenges young modern ideals. Drugs, money, and the media are extremely prevalent in each track. He acknowledges the weight of what’s important in society, while simultaneously living outside of it. Ocean breezily paints the image of “kissing the earth at bird view” and the “bull and the matador dueling in the sky”.
This album is a vivid collage of Ocean’s life, where he retells his experiences with an eclectic collection of songs. The album as a whole plays on the “everyday” human experience, not just the grandeur. It’s the triumph of existing as plainly as oneself. Ocean is a heady philosopher who creates a metaphysical awareness of being. The expression of intimacy reels the listener in, and disappears altogether with his last breath. Blonde is the solace we find in sadness, in loss, and in love.
“Nights”, the centerpiece of the album, encompasses all the questions that Ocean let’s float. It’s broken into countless components and each verse is a new stage of vulnerability. It is dense, devastatingly real, and embracing of fragility. In “Solo”, Ocean gets so high. Literally. “It’s hell on earth and the city’s on fire, inhale, in hell there’s heaven”, and a spacey, smoked out self-love. “Ivy” is about youth and reflection on past mistakes, like young love. The lyrics “we’ll never be those kids again” is repeated throughout; the song is imbued with nostalgia. The relationship he describes is overwhelming and highly chaotic, but worthwhile. The song resolves itself in muddled emotion, with Ocean aimlessly saying “I could drive all night dreaming”, shifting his voice to a scream on the last “dreaming”.
Channel Orange embodies a neo soul, contemporary R&B style, whereas Blonde pushes Ocean into a new category of alternativity and fluidity: technological perfection. There is constant instrumentation paired with chilling vocal harmonies. Gospel toned ballads and slow rap. Every lyric is a detail, every song a story. The musical experience is unparalleled, richly emotional, meditative, and three-dimensional. It is a book of poems set to hushed instrumentals. It’s communicative, but secret. The profound emotional element becomes so heavy and begins to take you around every corner and play on every thought and feeling. The mind is evolved and dissolved.
A metaphorical interpretation of this album would be an Ashram in India, sitting in a temple on the cold floor, feet bare, finally reaching that blue glowy area of transcendence. It is a manifestation of the genius sitting alone in the studio, thinking deeply and posing existential questions through song. Ocean ultimately achieves a sensual self-indulgence and the product of these four “lost” years creates something untouched, alone and essential. Blonde is timeless euphony.
*Channel Orange reference that only true Frank Ocean fans will get.