Favorite Track: "Self Control" Least Favorite Track: "Seigfried"
(Unpopular opinion incoming) Frank Ocean shocked everyone with his debut studio album in 2012 channel ORANGE. This dreamy and experimental compilation of R&B and soul left fans yearning for more of Frank’s unique sound. After four long years of waiting and an unbelievably amount of anticipation Frank finally released his second full length project; Blonde. I always have more of a difficult time writing about R&B projects due to the fact that I generally just don’t find the genre very engaging. In the case of artists like Frank Ocean who provide more of an experimental, slower, and stripped down approach to the genre, sometimes I find their music rather sleepy. Call me an absent minded pop/rap praiser but sometimes experimental and unique doesn’t mean enjoyable. As for Blonde, it almost fell into this category for me. As an entire record it’s a little dreary and sleepy for my taste. It is more lively than most of Frank’s previous efforts but it still employs some of my biggest pet peeves within R&B as a genre. However, compared to channel Orange I would say Blonde has more color and a little bit more to offer in terms of substance. One of the things that does make Blonde such an intriguing project to me is how much is buried under the surface. At face value this album is very easy going but if you dive into it a bit deeper their are all kinds of references and samples and little details that in my opinion, really justify the artistry of this album and Frank Ocean as an artist in general. However it’s sound, once again does come off a little bland and that becomes hard to overlook as the record goes on. The intro track “Nikes” is a pretty weak start to the record. The high pitched, chipmunk, vocal effects on Frank’s voice throughout the track really don’t add a lot to the song and they get very annoying after the first couple of verses they occupy. Lyrically “Nikes” lacks substance and a subject matter that really stays consistent. Instead the song features a light theme of materialism for the first portion and then after that it simply seems like Frank going off on a tangent about completely unrelated things. However, next we get “Ivy” which is much more of a highlight for me. I love Frank’s vocal melodies on the track. He goes into a very limited yet melodic refrain on the turn of the chorus that really is what makes the track so great. Another highlight for me is “Self Control”. I love the subtle and gentle background guitar chords throughout the song. They compliment Frank’s voice gorgeously throughout the track. These two tracks are great example of what I think Frank Ocean could be. Vocally and lyrically he is pretty consistently enjoyable for me but so many of his tracks lack any kind of instrumental backing that his music becomes so bland that I have a hard time sitting through a complete Frank Ocean record. However, that isn’t to say that Blonde isn’t an enjoyable record or unlistenable by any stretch of the imagination, it just simply has trouble stringing together enjoyable tracks which makes it more of a mix bag and less cohesive. For example some of the low points on this record do become extremely boring and stretched out. “Godspeed”, “Seigfried”, and “Skyline To” are a couple of the tracks that really throw a wrench in the momentum of the tracklist for me. The record pretty much continues with this trend of stringing together a few decent tracks only to be followed by a dud for its entire welcome. For me, it's what makes Blonde a tad bit overrated but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this record does have many notable songs on it that are some of the most important and popular ballads we have gotten from experimental R&B this decade.