Frank Ocean – Blonde

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The wait for this Frank Ocean album was excruciating for many. He’s not exactly the type of artist to enjoy the spotlight, understandably, and for all we could have known at the time, he might not have been going to release anything. A week before the release of ‘Blonde’, he debuted his visual album ‘Endless’. Many thought the album was slightly lacking but that was until it was realised that wasn’t the album that we thought we were getting. As it turns out Frank was just using the visual album as a means of fulfilling his contract with Def Jam and therefore was able to release ‘Blonde’ independently. A sly but incredibly smart move on his part. Many thought the roll out was messy but by the sounds of it, it couldn’t have worked out any better for Frank.

‘Blonde’ is quite a bare album. It is not heavy on instrumentation but this just allows Ocean’s vast vocal range to take centre stage. He carries entire tracks like ‘Solo’ and ‘Skyline To’ with ease. The key to this album’s euphoric quality lies in the combination of the minimal production and Frank’s ability to inject character into anything. He is an excellent storyteller and quite often you find yourself easily escaping into his vivid imagery.

You can hear he has an almost new found confidence in his voice and song writing. This was going to be a given considering the adoration Channel Orange received. However, he doesn’t sound cocky about acclaim of the past, but more comfortable in assuming the position he is about to with this album. He keeps extremely calm and relaxed at all times while still maintaining the high levels of emotion of what he has written.

Andre 3000 reprises his guest appearance from the previous album with a rapidly delivered rhyme that only clocks in around the minute mark. He’s known for stealing spotlight with featured verses and this is no different. He takes subliminal shots at Drake’s recent ghost-writing fiasco and judging by the pace of the verse it seems like he wanted to make a statement that he can top any competition, not that it ever should have been in doubt.

There is only so much spotlight up for grabs on ‘Blonde’ though. Despite the long list of producers that provided the soundtrack for the vocals and helped compile the album into a cohesive project, it is Frank’s immense talent is what stays with you most with from listening to the album. The only factor that spoils certain tracks is the rare, but completely unnecessary use of auto-tune. When you can glide through melodies like he can naturally, the use of voice altering mostly lacks any real use in my opinion. Luckily, it’s scarce on the album and his naturally soulful tone takes precedence as it should. Expectations genuinely couldn’t have been higher, but it’s safe to say he more than delivered enough game changing material in the past two weeks to please everyone.