After four years of near-complete silence, a miracle has occurred Frank Ocean has released his follow-up album to 2012’s Channel Orange. However, it is worth mentioning first and foremost that Blonde is quite a different beast to it’s predecessor. Those of you expecting an album filled with lavish, elaborate production on the level of ‘Pyramids’ from Channel Orange will be disappointed, although the production here is still on top form.
One thing that is consistent throughout Blonde is it’s stripped back minimalistic production. With lightly plucked acoustic guitars, synthesizers, and of course Frank’s signature voice. The songs are anything but cluttered, but instead do a good job of allowing Frank to take centre stage. For example, the song ‘Ivy’ – the strange-sounding guitars in the background provide a backdrop to Frank’s tale of a former lover, who he seems to remember equal parts bitterly and fondly.
The album also takes quite a few risks that you might not associate with such a well-known artist . The interlude song ‘Good Guy’ is a very brief tale of a date that didn’t turn out the way Frank had hoped, as well as the peculiar ‘Facebook Story’ – a quirky and amusing monologue of a man explaining that his girlfriend of three years broke up with him because he didn’t add her on Facebook. One thing that is unusual about the album is, despite it’s eclectic selection of guest vocalists including Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, they are not featured very prominently. Beyoncé has some nice backing vocals on ‘Pink + White’, however Kendrick’s ‘feature’ on ‘Skyline To’ consists merely of background spoken word. To be honest, it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. However, André 3000’s feature definitely bucks this trend.
The song ‘Nights’ is worth mentioning, for the way that the instrumental completely changes up a few minutes into the song, making it sound like a completely different track all together. However, it is because of things like this, that it has to be said that Blonde is not quite as accessible as it’s predecessor. Listening through the album, whilst the quality of each song is very consistent, and the album flows well together, there are no obvious stand out singles in the vein of ‘Thinkin Bout You’ or ‘Swim Good’. That said, for people looking for some R&B that stands out as different to some of Frank’s contemporaries, then Blonde is absolutely worth checking out, and previous fans of Frank Ocean will no doubt be wondering what he’ll deliver next…here’s hoping it doesn’t take another four years.
By Matt Carey