THE BEGINNING

In case you missed all the back and forth on Frank Ocean’s second album, Katie Beswick has mapped it out for you.

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Frank Ocean’s latest studio album has been nothing if not hotly anticipated. It’s been four years since he splashed onto the scene, fabulous and ambiguous, with ‘Channel Orange’, fusing RnB with electro, psychedelic and jazz-funk sounds. I’ve yet to meet anyone under the age of 35 who doesn’t call themselves a Frank Ocean fan. He’s a true millennial maverick: playing with the norms and expectations of the industry, teasing us with rumoured releases (the yet-to-materialise ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, which we all expected to hear sometime last year) and holding back his latest work, like a seasoned lover, until the very last possible minute, when we just can’t wait any more. And even then he toys with us: instead of an album on the promised August 5th release date, a surprise ‘visual album’ dropped out of nowhere. Two weeks later, quickly, finally, we got the promised studio album. Oh and a printed magazine thing.

Hang on, what?

Yeah, it was a busy old time for Frank last week. First the strange, haunting visual album, ‘Endless’, shot in black and white, in a warehouse, running at 45 minutes (although there is a rumour of a 140 hour-long ‘uncut’ version out there somewhere in the ether, so we await more drip-drip releases), and then the studio album ‘Blond(e?)’ along with a magazine (Boys Don’t Cry — an apparent homage to the rumoured 2015 record), handed out at pop-up stores in London and cities across the States.

Sorry, what’s the studio album called?

Hmm. It’s not entirely clear, to be honest. Either Blond or Blonde depending on whether you believe the album cover or the iTunes title. Not sure it matters, tbh.

A visual album? Is there any point in attempting that since Beyoncé pretty much defined the genre with ‘Lemonade’?

Not really, no. But he’s had a go. ‘Endless’ is a little strange (what’s with the power tools, Frank?) a little, dare I say it, dull, visually (it feels a bit like waiting about at your boyfriend’s band rehearsal on Sunday afternoon). Although the music is beautiful and the slow, ethereal atmosphere of the work suggests it might improve with repeat viewings, when I can watch for leisure rather than in anticipation of a review deadline.

What was in the magazine?

I haven’t been able to get hold of a full copy (they’re currently going for around $2,000 on eBay), although I can tell you it includes a poem about McDonald’s written by Kanye West (hmmm), and an ode from Ocean to his boyfriend (‘My boyfriend he misses me when I’m gone/so he don’t forget me/there’s a song he sings/calms his nerve, endings/my boyfriend is friendly/and we don’t want no problems’). Fun.

And Blond?

Blonde is brilliant. Or, as my brother put it to me on Saturday: ‘Oh my God, have you heard it yet? It’s AMAZING.’ Sensitive and, again, slow, it unfurls dreamily. Much more meditative than his first album (or as my brother put it: ‘Less bangers. But that only makes it better’), with witty interludes that set up the theme of songs to come and offer reflections on the state of the modern world (I particularly love ‘Facebook Story’). If there’s one thing I’m unsure about it’s the voice augmentation, which sometimes makes Frank sound like a drowning baby robot.

But I guess you can’t have it all.

Worth the wait?

Oh yes. Oh, definitely.dot