Karen Navarette-Montejo ’20
Christopher Francis “Frank” Ocean is a New Orleans born artist who left Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 in order to continue his music career. Frank Ocean moved to Los Angeles, signed a contract with Def Jam and became a member of OddFuture, the music label formed by Tyler, The Creator. In 2011, Frank released his first mixtape “Nostalgia, Ultra” and then his debut album “Channel Orange” in 2012, and most recently “Blond(e)” in 2016– all of which have been critically acclaimed.
Similar to 2011, this year has delivered revolutionary albums, from Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” to Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo”, Frank Ocean added to the avant-garde music, albeit later than expected, with the release of his heavily anticipated album and an unexpected visual album. Four years after “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean dropped
“Endless” a 45-minute-long visual album and two versions of “Blond(e).” Prior to the albums’ release, Frank Ocean’s website featured a picture of two different album covers with the caption “I got two versions. I got twoooo versions.” The two versions of “Blond(e)” were the pop-up shop CD version that accompanied Frank Ocean`s magazine, “Boys Don’t Cry,” and the Apple Music version. “Blond(e)”, originally rumored to be titled “Boys Don’t Cry,” was intentionally titled two ways, with and without the “e”, and is theorized to be a statement on Frank Ocean`s sexuality, as dropping the “e” changes the gender of the adjective.
Seen in the title, and all throughout the album, Frank is a craftsman of wording and he uses specific words to convey profound ideas and double meanings.
The prolonged release of “Blond(e)” is rectified by the quality and craftsmanship that went into the making of this album. “Blond(e)” is an album and an experience, it speaks of and to human experience, it speaks of love, immortality, and time.
The first track and music video on the album titled “Nikes” was released before the rest of “Blond(e).” The music video for “Nikes” was directed by Tyrone Lebon, a London filmmaker, who describes his creation as “a stream of Frank’s consciousness.” “Nikes” serves as a preface to “Blond(e)” by depicting a culmination of the emotions that are expressed in the album. The emotions expressed in the music video are presented in a raw and trippy manner, with cuts to a satanic figure and naked body parts. The track makes a statement on consumerism by referencing society’s materialistic tendencies with the line, “all you want is Nikes but the real ones.” The track also sheds light on the injustices plaguing black lives, with the line “that n**** looked just like me”, followed by the face of Trayvon Martin and then Frank Ocean. Frank presents the death of Trayvon Martin as a consequence of his skin color and indirectly expresses that the cold blooded killings are a continuation of racism.
“Pink + White,” the third track on the album, speaks about coming to terms with the uncontrollable aspects of life. Frank depicts the triviality behind the things that cannot be controlled, like the colors of the sky; “every time we have no control / if the sky is pink and white / if the ground is black and yellow.” This track also commemorates a past relationship with the line, “You showed me love / Glory from above / Regard me dear / It’s all downhill from here.” The track ends with “this is life, life immortality” as a realization that memories can create a feeling of immortality. In his “Boys Don’t Cry” magazine, Frank Ocean comments on the nostalgia that accompanies his teenage years, stating “It’s surprisingly my favourite part of my life so far. Surprising, to me, because the current phase is what I was asking the cosmos for when I was a kid. Maybe that part had its rough stretches too, but in my rearview mirror it’s getting small enough to convince myself it was all good. And really though It’s still all good.”.
Nostalgia, love, and abstract aspects of life are recurring themes in the album that help create a feeling of a non-linear narration of time, memories, and experiences. Frank Ocean relates the human experience through the juxtaposition of topics like the past and the creation of the future, like falling in love and falling out of love. Frank Ocean’s “Blond(e)” does more than tell stories, it’s a vessel of the human experience.
Karen Navarette-Montejo ’20