Album Review : Frank Ocean – Blonde


This shape shifting masterpiece is what we’ve been waiting for from good ole Frank. Four years since the virtuoso ‘Channel Orange’ Mr Ocean has served us up something we can really feel.

This album is almost like a deep meditation into Ocean’s psyche as we find him in extraordinary story telling mode all throughout this record.

Brave and courageous in a time where most play it safe, Frank has given those on the margin a ray of  hope and has been instrumental in starting conversations on topics most taboo such as race & gender. A spirit that’s fluid and unapologetic, he’s that bright sign for a universal shift in thought towards everything. Maybe a bit over the top but that’s how he makes you feel.

With four years past since his last major album you start to worry if Frank Ocean would be another Lauren Hill or Dave Chappelle? Representing a whole race can be a filled with trials and tribulations, it’s not an easy road to take. You have to be more than just excellent. Don’t take my word for it, Chris Rock is my reference point for my last statement. Go look it up.

While police brutality swamped the US over the last few years, the likes of Beyonce and Kendrick Lamarr boldly spoke out with their art. Ocean furnished us with his thoughts through social media with much grace and eloquence. In ‘Channel Orange’ he showed us his stoicism and deep empathy but it may have been missed by many. It was almost as if he saw such events coming.


Nikes’ finds Ocean in a sombre reflective mode as he sings “RIP my nigga Trayvon, that nigga looks just like me”. The music video brings the significance of these words as Frank holds a picture of the murdered teen in his trademark hoodie. The song has a dizzy, almost lightheaded feel to it. It’s certainly the most in your face outspoken track on the album and hazily gets the ball rolling with quiet force.

The beauty of this piece of art is the insular nature of it. In these times of basically mimicking what the next is doing, Ocean beautifully touches on themes of the everyman experience. The simple survival of a human being is grasped in a rare way. This must be the meaning of soul music, the idea of one man creating organically free of some kind of machine directing his every move. This is deeply personal but not preachy in any way. The multitude of styles used to compose this record shows that Ocean is beyond definition, which I find so pleasing. How will the box putters react to this?

One way to describe Frank Ocean is transparent. He’s well known for his honesty. He’s at his best though when peeling back right to the core of situations and exposing its roots in an effortless manner. He tackled the subject of privilege on “Super Rich kids” without grazing a finger nail. Dissected the topic of the Coachella generation of bored numbness with razor sharp commentary in “Novacane”. It’s in Frank’s music video that he now also begins to excel. This can be found in “Nikes” video, which is a clever piece of short film, which finds Ocean on fire at one point before a clever act of craftsmanship finds the flames being extinguished.


Minimalistic instrumentation is also a signature of Blonde. For spacious periods of the record there is no sign of a drum beat for example. The quietness of the album is brought to light by the diamond like vocals that Frank displays on each track. Brian Eno and Rick Rubin are credited as inspirations and contributors in the inlay. Both are champions in this production style.  Frank’s way is brilliant in “the less is more” bracket and really does showcase his, quite brilliant, vocal range. You really can’t play with his falsettos.

Ocean, answers to nobody on this album and even what sounds like his most straightforward track ‘Nights’ is an intricate display of virtuosity. . . Sharp with its glittery arrangements and cutting vocals. The last minute thirty of this track switches into what feels like a dream like sequence. It’s consistent with the powerful nature of the man who just takes his own lane.

Frank Ocean is now 28, you can feel his maturity and evolution on every track on ‘Blonde’. Strength personified as he faces up to the world he’s in, through the form of singing his ‘blooming’ heart out. The abstract nature of songs such as ‘Skyline To’, which plays out like a poem . . . An unexplainable summer tale of love, sex and fascination of past times in the Californian sun.

The Gospel sound is beautifully explored in ‘Godspeed’ and finds Frank reflecting on his childhood. There’s a strong sense of family as we get a sense of the love that Ocean received growing up.


Seigfried’ is an alluringly introspective track almost like a diary account which has Ocean openly contemplating about the possiblility of 2 children and a swimming pool. Finally, closing with a reflective soliloquy told in a somewhat spaced out manor, it’s as if we were in the last moments of life on earth. Although the topics are not for the light-hearted, Frank manages them with a lightness of touch that only he can do.

The gospel sound is again given a platform on ‘Solo’ as Ocean looks at the ying & yang of being single. This is a tale of intoxication, emptiness and the joy of being solo. Frank sings “There’s hell on earth and the city’s on fire, in hell in hell there’s heaven”. Remarkable is the writing on this track, In a standout album this stands out! By the end of the track Frank finds a semblance of peace with being on his own.

Five tracks later we come to ‘Solo (Reprise)’ which features the first stand out major vocal performance, in the form of rapper ‘Andre 3000’. Accompanied by a thought provoking piano piece, 3000 goes in on the questionable practises of some artists in the industry, from top rappers who’ve clearly cut corners to be where they are by the use of Ghost – Writers.  “I’ve stumbled and lived every word, was I just working way too hard”. Andre plays this out like Frank’s big brother, advising his younger sibling to proceed in the industry with much caution.

The album concludes with segments of old recorded interviews with some of Ocean’s old childhood friends. Frank’s younger brother Ryan, who by all accounts, was around 11 at the time. A snug keyboard plays in the background, as the kids talk about their dreams and wishes. Laughs are looped with the unworried optimistic nature, captured through a constant distorted frequency. This sound reminds us that this recording is time sensitive. The talk of super powers from Brother Ryan has come to pass in the form of his brother Frank . . . An outstanding piece of art.


Editor: Adrian Richard