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Frank Ocean - | by stephenmj12
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Frank Ocean -

I caught up to Frank Ocean's channel ORANGE late in the game, a few years after it had been consumed by everybody else. But I fell in love with it, and realized that it had set a new personal standard for me when it came to R&B/pop. So I had heard last year about this upcoming project Boys Don't Cry, and I was excited. This was going to be the first Frank Ocean album I could hear right when it drops.

 

Obviously, there were plenty of album delays that followed. But then he finally released Blond/Blonde, following the release of that 45-minute visual project, Endless. I guess it's a visual album, and both sound radically different from channel ORANGE. That's easily discernable from the first listen, and a lot of the differences revolve around the production and composition. It's much more stripped down than ORANGE, feels a bit more cerebral. It feels very much like an avant-garde approach to pop and soul - he talked about being influenced by The Beach Boys and The Beatles in 2013, so it makes sense.

 

The instrumentation on this album makes a lot more sense after realizing who Frank was listening to while making this. And it feels more whole for me. It doesn't have the same "airy" quality that Endless had, and doesn't have as much of that lo-fi quality. But there's still plenty of modesty in the production here, yet it is all experimental at the same time.

 

"Solo" has to be - probably - my favorite track on the entire album. This one song is a really great example of what Frank Ocean does throughout this project. The title of the song is used in more than one context in the song - being alone (either romantically or otherwise), performing a music solo on stage, and even being "so-low" that he turns to drugs. And there seems to be only one instrument being used on this song, the organ. It's beautifully done.

 

 

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Frank is a poet. He's able to paint extremely vivid and thought-provoking pictures with his lyrics. The chorus is beautiful. His vocals also add so much, as well as his almost-spoken-word-like flow on this song. Especially during the second verse. It sounds as if he is getting ready to start rapping at any moment.

 

Going back to the beginning of the album, with "Nikes," Frank's voice in the first half of the song doesn't bother me. It grew on me and now I appreciate it, I honestly can't really imagine the song without it now. I'm wondering if he did this on purpose because his voice, over this production, citing these specific lyrics, would just sound better. At least during the first half. Not sure. I'm also not sure if he's using that voice to demonstrate the fact that he's singing from the perspective of a younger Frank. Or something like that.

 

He switches it up halfway through the song, so I definitely want to think he's was using that voice effect for a specific reason and not just randomly. I love the music video for the song as well. It provides a different context for the son, due to the two dueling voices that are competing over the track in the video. Loneliness, drugs and love. Those are three things Frank references quite a bit on this album.

 

He's able to find very refreshing and beautiful ways to depict loneliness. Much like with the song "Solo," as well as "Ivy" and "Self Control." The ladder being a prime example of that. Frank illustrates such a heartbreaking conundrum. Being in love with someone who has already moved on and is probably in a relationship with someone else. And you're so desperate for their love that you'll just sleep in between the both of them just to be close to her/him.

 

And this is just one song that I know will be so incredible to hear live. I want to experience this entire album live. More so than channel ORANGE.

 

It's the second half of this album that really becomes experimental, exploring some new soundscapes and including some acoustic-based ballads. "White Ferrari" and "Seigfried" have grown on me lately, they're both very intelligent and emotional pieces. Both musically and lyrically. Those two songs more than any others feel inspired by stuff like the Beatles/Beach Boys, and even Elliott Smith.

 

This minimalist approach had to grow on me, and I guess that isn't really different than anything else. I haven't figured out the interview section on the last song. I don't know how it fits into the whole narrative of the album. I get that Frank is kind of just talking in a stream of consciousness kind of way, at least that's what it feels like. But even if it is written. He's talking about his life, his past, growing up, becoming successful, fame, friends. Also, sections of that interview are inaudible and difficult to really hear which is annoying.

 

I appreciate the work he put into this. He's more than just an R&B artist, and if the last album didn't prove it, this one certainly did. He's excelled beyond just that one genre and I'm glad for it to be honest. He was able to do all of this while still being Frank Ocean. One thing I noticed throughout the album is the lack of percussion/drums. That really changes the tonal structure of the songs, and he's able to bring in other instruments to make up for it.

 

"Ivy" just uses guitars, "Solo" is just using an organ. A lot of acoustic guitars in songs like "White Ferrari" and "Seigfried." And there are these other, brief detours he takes like on "Close to You," a 1 minute and 25 second song. Using this strange drum loop, with his vocals being echoed. "Pretty Sweet" is another departure. Apparently, on the physical CD copy, this is the first song on the album. I can't imagine what that experience must be like listening to the album that way.

 

I'm obsessed with this album right now. It's struck a nerve. I'm getting lost in it, more and more everyday. "Skyline To" is a song I keep playing over and over. There's so much to enjoy here. smj12.com/frank-ocean-blonde/

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Uploaded on August 28, 2016