The Riff
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The Riff

Frank Ocean: Where Should We GoAfter Blonde?

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On February 16, 2011, the world was introduced to an up-in-coming artist. The R&B aspect and the oldest member of a radical mouth but highly creative faced collective Odd Future. Nostalgia, Ultra would be released on that day by Frank Ocean, garnering buzz and acclaim from his debut mixtape, the next year he would go on for more (highly deserved) success with his debut album “Channel Orange”. Earning an extended amount of more praise and even a Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album and with his 2016 magnum opus and cited “Best album of the Decade”, Blond, Franks career is beyond immaculate as it reaches its 10th anniversary. Insider declared Frank as Artist of the Decade: “Listening to Oceans music feels like sitting in a planetarium. We’re seeing his memories musings and complex emotions reflected across a spacious sky”.

Solidified as one of the acts of the 2010s and one of the influential artists of the 2010s, Frank Oceans has molded a legacy in the music of this generation that can’t be denied. Now, there’s that old music conversation of if it’s better for an artist to “burn out or fade away”. While I don’t feel an artist should be forced to choose between these two options everyone can do whatever they want. Frank Ocean is a different entity that comes into question, does he need to release new music again? As of now, his musical career is at a pinnacle that not many get to see.

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As the 2020s begin to start, 2021 will mark 5 years since the release of his album so beloved, so innovating, so perfect that you need to look up a thesaurus to find a different word to describe it as I did. Blond is Franks’s “Chef d’ oeuvre” of his career. Named the best album of the decade by Pitchfork and one of the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone. Pitchfork explaining why in its mini-article: “Frank Ocean is the hinge artists of our time, the true voice of a generation because he takes long silence” further discussing “With Blond, he took his time building his staircase to somewhere. Elusive and Independent, he weaves from genre to genre”. In Rolling Stones updated 500 Greatest albums list (ranked #79), the writer goes to say:

“The songs were so nakedly intimate, it felt like hip-hop Pet Sounds in the spirit of Beyonce and Elliot Smith” continuing “Blond lives in the generations atmospheric that’ll breathe life to others creativity, positive energy and get people through negative times”.

Being at the royal table with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, To Pimp a Butterfly, Lemonade, Flower Boy, Salad Days, Currents, Norman Fucking Rockwell, etc. Added to the experience of the album Frank went on a worldwide tour through 2017 and performed a few special shows that were directed by Spike Jonze and had included a special appearance from Brad Pitt, at the FYF Festival. Which these three combined feel like the perfect trio. Brad Pitt spoke to GQ and told them: “I’ve been listening to Frank Ocean. I find this young man so special. Talk about getting to the raw truth, he’s painfully honest and very special, I can’t find one bad song”. Mr. Pitt isn’t the only nor will be the last person to express their admiration for Frank, as he sparked the hearts of countless people whether fans or peers of his including Brockhampton, Khalid, Daniel Caesar, Lorde just to name a few. From Flea to of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, to A$AP Rocky to Jay-Z to Kanye West, he has fans across many genres.

Leaving on a high note to that nature, it calls back to the question from earlier, does he need to release new music? With 5 years without a new release, anticipation builds stronger and potent with fans among others, some may stay patient and others will feel like they’re waiting in line at the DMV just to get a kick in the face. Expectations will become unrealistically high after Blond, many expect his next album should be God-tier, it may feel like a lose-lose for Frankie Ocean. If he follows isn’t as good as they expected, people will beyond underwhelmed, disheartened, and the possible memes will flood your Instagram page where you can’t tell if it’s to castigate the album or laughing at it. Now if it is an amazing project since Frank is a nicely detailed and well-paced artist as it should be, many will still wonder if it was worth the wait or “it’s not as good as Blond”. Emphasizing the fact that you can’t please them all. Leaving his catalog on a good mark will do wonders for his legacy, by giving a trilogy of projects and leaving to pursue other ventures. Yes, he released the visual album, Endless but that felt like more of a force release to get out of publicized Def-Jam contract (the famous finesse story).

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Should he stay away from music forever? Of course not, like one of his influences Andre 3000 of OutKast, he’s in the perfect position of doing features for others. As throughout the decade we’ve got plenty of features from him on Tyler the Creators “Flower Boy” album in 2017, A$AP Rocky’s “Testing” album & Travis Scott “Astroworld “ in 2018, and many other notable features such as his Calvin Harris collab “Slide” in 2017. Staying active without needing to add more to your catalog. Entering the realm of “What if” artists such as Andre 3000 and Lauryn Hill, however in their cases, they have their reasoning for not releasing new projects. Andre 3000 spoke to Rick Rubin in 2019 on Ricks’s podcast:

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“My focus isn’t there, my confidence isn’t there… Once the attention is on that world, the world goes awry” While Lauryn Hill to Rolling Stone: “After The Miseducation, there were scores of tentacled obstructionists, politics, repressing agendas, unrealistic expectations, and saboteurs EVERYWHERE. People had included me in their narratives of THEIR successes as it pertained to my album, and if this contradicted my experience, I was considered an enemy.”

Hopefully, it’ll be more for a more positive and healthy reason if he were to decide to not focus on music as much anymore. We don’t know if he’ll drop an album next year or 2028. Certainly, fans will wait, no matter what the follow-up is or how his music turns out to be. Like his opening lyrics from “Novacane”, he started something for sure that will marinate and carry on forever.

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