Frank Ocean’s “Blonde”: Better Late Than Never?

You’re still upset?

You waited over 4 years for a new album of original music from Frank. There were moments when you believed it may have come earlier and it never did.

He disappeared in 2015 amid talks of his next album being like an R&B meet The Beach Boys vibe. He popped up on Kanye’s The Life of Pablo as a feature only to eventually be internet-style post-edited to be on his own track called: “Frank’s Track.” Side note: The Life of Pablo was better before the 2nd and 3rd updates.

Internet memes and hashtags emerged poking fun at the delay and lack of art. Suddenly, Frank’s website BoysDontCry.co started displaying an Apple logo and streaming video of someone building something. A week later, we have a 45 minute video album called Endless that most would say “Ehh” (and we learned even Frank felt less enthusiastic about the 45 minutes of work as he utilized it’s release to fufill a contract obligation to allow his next album to be a completely independent financial venture.)

Within 36 hours of Endless, we were given a music video to a new song called “Nikes” involving Frank covered in glitter, a dancing devil, cars, twin girls and a remarkably present Straight-Edge Coca-Cola rip t-shirt. Hours later, we finally had the true follow-up to Channel Orange. Frank Ocean had released Blonde. Or is it Blond?

Apple Music calls the album “Blonde” and Frank’s album cover reads“Blond.” Regardless, we had 17 tracks. SEVENTEEN!

There were magazines and pop-up shops to commemorate the event. We should be so grateful.

Is it Channel Orange? No. But we had 4 years to appreciate that album. We longed for more Frank Ocean because of that album and his previous tapes and singles. We now have Blonde but apparently, it still isn’t good enough for some.

I’m a firm believer that a true album review takes a few weeks of listening and understanding the content to fully make a judgment. In this internet age, reviews are out almost as soon as the content but how much did the reviewer absorb? I’ve been listening to Blonde as often as one can and I still can’t give a 100% firm review yet.

Andre 3000’s verse for Solo (Reprise) is a homerun, though. I fully stand behind that.

People argue against use of distorted or affected voices like in Nikes because Frank’s voice is such a gem. It’s music. You can’t always get what you want.

Does it sound rushed? Some parts. I feel like an artist’s first breakthrough masterpiece will always feel complete because they are only competing for a piece of music history. After that, every work has to be better than or equal to that piece and still be new and different. It sounds exhausting. Kanye’s College Dropout, Jay’s Blueprint, and Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city all come to mind as hip-hop versions of that theory.

Though Jay’s Reasonable Doubt precedes Blueprint and some may argue that his first is his best.

Also, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his best work to date (and you can fight me on that.)

Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly followed his first solid work and doesn’t show any decline. Untitled, Unmastered felt like a money-grab. A really musically-appealing money-grab.

Will Blonde match up to Channel Orange? Too soon to tell. Probably not.

We had 4 years to listen and match parts of Channel Orange to memories and events in our lives. Frank served as the soundtrack to so many things. His new album has that chance to do the same. Nights feels like a poor man’s Pyramids but is another story through instrumentation. Ivy swoons like so many of Frank’s serenades. White Ferrari makes sense of the short letter posted to Tumblr about Frank loving cars and thanking fans. Other tracks feel like old Frank, most feel like something new. He’s not the same kid so why would he make the same music?

The album has some gems. It has some duds. But overall, it is still too early to tell how it will be remembered in Frank Ocean’s catalogue. Are the internet jokes true? Is Frank going to vanish for 4 more years before we hear more music? I hope not. I want more. For now though, Blonde is enough, and it is good enough. We just live in a world of people who want re-runs and remakes.

We got our Frank Ocean album for 2016. Some may not like it but so many begged for it. Beggars can’t be choosers. You can always choose to keep listening to Channel Orange. It’s not going anywhere. Maybe if you dislike Blonde, it will give you even more appreciation for Channel Orange. Regardless, give it a listen. You waited 4 years and now, it’s here.