By: Skyler Gallarzan
Imagine: It’s the summer of 2016. You listened to Frank Ocean’s album, Channel Orange on repeat for months. The album’s variety ranging from electro-punk to smooth soul hooked in all your friends, and you’ve been waiting to hear what album Frank will be dropping next. It’s been 4 years too long. His visual project, Endless, played quietly in the Windows tab of your laptop late at night, it’s airiness and stripped vocals carried soothing and comforting melodies throughout the video. It only made you more excited to hear what he is creating. What will this next album bring?
To say that musical genius Frank Ocean has revolutionized the path of Pop and RnB is an understatement. His eccentric yet simplistic chords and vocals had completely changed the definitions Pop, Soul, Electric, Alternative, RnB, and more, exploring beyond this variety of genres. Being honest, I don’t think you can limit this artist to a single genre, his sound being so unique in the fact that he combines so many concepts in his work in such a simple manner, it almost seems as if he deserves a category of his own.
Christopher Edwin Breux, better known as Frank Ocean, was born in Long Beach, California and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, surrounded by music wherever he went. While his Louisiana roots surrounded his upbringing with jazz, Ocean explored recording music as a career when he dropped out of college.
With Channel Orange being a success, it was no secret that everyone was excited for Frank’s new album Blonde. And it definitely did not disappoint.
Blonde introduces the album with the slow, reverbed beat of the track Nikes, accompanied by Ocean’s voice in his original, controlled vocals, and pitched up vocals as well. His lyrics reflecting materialistic nature of society, singing “Bitches want Nikes, They lookin’ for a check, tell ‘em it ain’t likely”. This first song sets the tone for the album, which carries similar aspects and tones: a certain, quiet elegance with the melody, soft controlled vocals, and lyrics worth analyzing. While each song differs in a number of ways, each of them carry this simplistic and almost vulnerable sound.
For example, Frank’s seventh track, Self Control (also my personal favorite), opens with the soft simple ballads of a electric guitar, again using the higher pitched vocals of Frank, until he transitions into his original vocals. The first half of the song hold its simplicity factor with its quiet guitar ballad, accompanied by the differing pitches of vocals. “Keep a place for me”, sings the higher pitch, directing these lyrics to a partner, amidst a relationship falling part. The second half of the track brings in the outro, which ties the ringing of an electric keyboard and guitar with echoed lyrics “I, I, I know you gotta leave, leave, leave, Take down some summer time, Give us, just tonight, night night”. Both the melody and the tone of the lyrics compliment each other; one does not overpower the other, allowing the listener to not only enjoy the production of the instrumentals, but be able to listen to and analyze the lyrics on a deeper level.
With most of his songs carrying a similar vibe, a handful pf Ocean’s tracks on these album introduce a unique and interesting addition to the emotions tied in with the album. On his fourth track “Be Yourself”, it replays a 87 second voicemail coming from a mother, pleading for the listener to “be yourself, and know that that’s good enough”. A soft melody plays in the background as she says, “You understand the things I am telling you, not to use alcohol, not to use drugs…”.
In analyzing the entirety of the album, Blonde is a project that tackles some of the most vulnerable themes that Frank Ocean has crafted into a unique contemporary and lyrical piece. Its concepts touching on reminiscing on the past in White Ferrari, failed relationships in Ivy, loneliness in Solo and Good Guy, and moving on in Futura Free, Ocean finds flow and subtly in his instrumentals to again- compliment his lyrics. In comparison to his 2012 album, Channel Orange, Blonde carries its power through its simplicity, and rawness, in both the instrumentals and lyrics. Blonde seems extremely personal, its rhythms and melodies played along nicely in “setting the scene” for the words of the song- if that makes sense.
Overall, this lyrical and instrumental project is worth listening to on repeat, just as the tracks of his other releases deserve to be. And honestly, there is so much more that is left unsaid about this album, for it cannot be merely limited by a 750 word maximum.