Frank Ocean


Blonde

2016

Genre: Funk / Soul

Style: Pop, Contemporary R&B

Label: Boys Don't Cry

I have to admit, before Blonde hit Frank Ocean was a member of OFWGKTA that I never went out of my way to investigate. “It’s the best shit to drop this year”, is what I would see in some of my circles but something just never stuck. This year was different. Blonde hit me like a ten pound bucket of Nickelodeon Gak and it’s still sticking to my mind.

Care with the linked video, it’s NSFW.

Review taken from Nina Corcoran’s review over at Consequence of Sound

This qualifies as minimalist avant-garde; the reflection of what’s perceived to be known and the dismantling of it into reworded lessons, something that challenges what you know, what you’ve been taught, what you’ve learned, and then questions what remains, what can be discovered, what’s still ignorantly regarded as truth. At 28 years old, Ocean grapples with this style of avant-garde in a profoundly understated way. He examines homoerotic desires (“Self Control”), fractured love (“Good Guy”), substance abuse (“Skyline To”), and family values (“Futura Free”). He looks at youth. He looks at technological barriers. Whatever the topic, the album presents his brand of minimalism in the guise of lazing. Ocean isn’t name-dropping on the upbeat. He doesn’t sketch his choruses with the production of a radio hit. He welcomes pop in grayscale tones, choosing acoustic and electric guitars over traditional synth and bass-heavy R&B.

Blonde sways into a lull of muted production, but there’s no paucity of inspiration. As Ocean clarifies, intricate and complicated are not synonyms for difficult or grandiose, particularly when applied to collaborations. Beyoncé sings brightly, but only during the outro of “Pink + White”. Kendrick Lamar offers a few lines on “Skyline To”, but as Ocean’s alter ego. Gospel singer Kim Burrell hits heavenly notes on “Godspeed” and then fades out. Ocean prioritizes space and softness so that the weight of his influences can be felt via guests. Brian Eno, Jonny Greenwood, Rick Rubin, Amber Coffman, and more aren’t bragging rights or flaunted featured parentheticals. He calls on friends to emphasize his vision, not to draw attention to it. The only true cameos are Andre 3000 — his wordy verse on “Solo (Reprise)” takes subliminal shots at Drake — and French electronic musician SebastiAn — a recount of relationship trust in the age of surveillance-style technology on “Facebook Story”. Both remain in the walls of Ocean’s tale. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook the use of these contributions because there are too many influences to study. They show Ocean’s ability to simplify the saturated so only highlights remain, and in that undemonstrative fashion, Blonde delineates from the norm.