Written By: J. Parker Darling
Frank Ocean’s follow up to the critically acclaimed “Channel Orange” has long been awaited by his fans, and “Blonde” delivers results despite the seemingly perpetual wait. Ocean made headlines after the release of “Channel Orange” when he announced that he was a bisexual man. “Blonde” is not an album defined by a bisexual man trying to be accepted by the pathologically masculine hip hop community. It is an album that seeks to criticize and undercut the current trend in hip hop of self-aggrandizement and aggressive consumerism.
The album opens with “Nikes” an immersive trap beat over which Ocean criticizes the superficial materialism of hip hop culture. Ocean reflects upon the obsession with brands and hedonistic love that is so prevalent in modern culture.
One of the most striking aspects of the album in comparison with Ocean’s previous release is the generous usage of conversational recordings. The most striking example of such an introduction is of Frank Ocean’s mother leaving a voicemail about the dangers of drug and alcohol usage and its’ prevalence in the lives of young people across America. The use of the somewhat distorted recordings throughout the album generates a personal continuity throughout the album that was not necessarily present in “Channel Orange”, but it is understandable that some of Ocean’s fans might not have their interest piqued by an album that so clearly was created with the intention of being listened to from start to finish. In this manner, Ocean’s album shares more in common conceptually with an indie rock outfit than his peers in the hip hop genre.
The most striking song on the album is, “Solo” which begins with descending electric piano chords and an ominous screaming sample as Ocean belts out some of his strongest lyrics to date. “It’s hell on Earth and the city’s on fire. Inhale, inhale, that’s heaven. There’s a bull and a matador dueling in the sky. Inhale, inhale, that’s heaven”. This tune focuses in on the inevitable isolation of the artist. Ocean reflects upon a handful of activities that one would often do with a group of people, but how now he just prefers to do those things by himself. Through this track the listener gains an insight into how difficult it can be to maintain normal relationships when you are a famous creative.
“Blonde” is an extremely well-crafted album that lends itself well to hip hop fans looking for an album experience or indie rock fans who are looking for a well thought out album concept. From jazzy guitar instrumentals to deep soul jams all reveal Ocean’s broad vision for an intellectually and emotionally stimulating album.
Parker Darling is an author, poet, and visual artist stationed in the Bay Area
Twitter/ Instagram: @Crowmeth
E-mail: [email protected] (serious inquiries only please)