Released 20 August 2016 by Def Jam
Length: 60 minutes 8 seconds (dependent on which version)
“Be yourself and know that that’s good enough. Don’t try to be someone else…” – Be Yourself by Frank Ocean.
It’s probably not a good idea to listen to Frank Ocean if you’re currently in between relationships or you’re deep into the consequences of past mistakes, or somewhat prone to flashes of regrets that overcome for periods longer than a few seconds. Let’s not even think about the pressures of work, unexpected financial impacts, exposures to secrets you don’t want, or the uncertainty and health of those you love. Life is hard enough as it is to keep your head up, live up to the expectations of others, and “act” your gender. These pulls and demands come from everywhere, some more than others, and for some even more than others.
With this patiently awaited Blonde release, Ocean takes us on an invoking journey through human frailties and vulnerabilities, substance abuse, the influences of life on the road, and the consequences of these pulls and demands. Ocean has a powerful tendency to traverse through the depths of emotion on a level that’s welcomingly invasive. And yet in spite of the chest-wrenching impact of Ocean’s nostalgic and painfully relatable vocals, there’s an unexpectedly eye opening reassurance that we’re not alone. As deep as we go, it’s important to remember that these feelings are normal. We’re human and it’s only ever more important to share.
Standout tracks are everywhere. Ivy offers an exploration of growing up and the contemplations of past mistakes. Pink + White is covered in characteristically classical Frank Ocean tones, transporting me back to when I first heard Channel Orange. In Solo, Ocean opens up about the loneliness of life on the road. Self Control is an introspection into the lingering emotions of an initial attraction, and the barriers we impose on ourselves to ensure the world that we’re doing alright. Nights is Ocean’s magnum opus track on the album. It’s a vulnerable exposition of the insecurities and holes that continue in spite of the objective masks and façades of success. People always have these unfounded assumptions about the lives of others, ever-failing to apply their own realities and empathies, deciding instead to project unreachable standards. The album offers these misconceptions up for analysis.
Ocean knows exactly what he’s doing with the album title Blonde, juxtaposed against the blatant counter-spelling of blond on the cover. This is the perennial tease of a required discourse about the blurred lines of gender that Ocean has so successfully subverted in the past. It echoes the societal impositions and rules embodied in the singularly imprisoning statement that boys don’t cry. With his latest album, Ocean continues the necessary societal challenge to identity. He elevates the conversation that we so often ignore. Gender equality and recognition. Cultural equality. Human equality. If it gets people talking, then we’re one step closer on at least a commercial level.
3 Pink + White
4 Be Yourself
6 Skyline To
7 Self Control
8 Good Guy
10 Solo (Reprise)
11 Pretty Sweet
12 Facebook Story
13 Close to You
14 White Ferrari
17 Futura Free