Frank Ocean’s return: A review of “Blonde”

Gabriel Noel, Contributor

After releasing the Grammy-winning, power-hitting, sensual love story that was Channel Orange in July of 2012, Ocean snuck out of that auditorium into a public absence that lasted four years in total. Where had he gone? Why? And would we live long enough to see his return? We may still never have the answers we were looking for, but after years of teasing a cult fanbase, Mr. Ocean has given us not only a virtuoso album, but a modern visual art project along with an extensive and rare personal magazine.

“Blonde” is an ethereal masterpiece. No singular man has done the necessary experimenting in the R&B and Pop genre like this since the mid-70’s, and Ocean does it with gusto. So it is only necessary that we examine each and every song that makes Ocean’s comeback album the masterpiece it is.

Pushing into “Pink + White” is Frank’s homage to a funk bassline that runs through all of our parents’ hearts and a guitar and bongo jam session happening somewhere deep in the warm Californian foothills. “Be Yourself” has Frank’s mother heeding the warnings that every post-high school student will most likely hear from their parents, whether or not it’s scripted and read to waves of synthesizer in the background or not. “Solo” is an organ-lead viewing of different stories from different walks of life using the title track’s words as the necessary and comfortable relation between all of them. Whether these are personal stories or not, Ocean proves here that he can write an amazing chorus and hook that use his falsetto voice to bring the house (or cathedral for that matter) down.

“Skyline To” heeds way to the end of summer anxiety that all youths realize and resent. Although it may be resented, Frank decides to look at the sentimental side of this argument and makes you feel and know that although it may be ending, that was one heck of a summer. The track experiences an interlude of a synthesizer lead that carries you away into the atmosphere where you can feel the hot rays of the sun forever and maybe vacation on a nearby planet. That being said, this track has an other-worldly way of giving the feeling of transcending not many will know or experience.

Then, we’re given “Nikes.” A slow, mellowed-out beat that features an auto-tuned Frank doing the polar opposite with his voice. This song breathes the materialistic need all current teenagers understand; the need for the quality clothing that represents your individualism, but also separates and combines yourself with an image. He speaks to his audience with confidence knowing they want the Nikes, “but the real ones.”

“Ivy” is the bass-lacking love song that will echo in your ears until you’re dancing to it at your wedding reception. “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you loved me… We’ll never be those kids again.” As the sweet guitar trills wash over you during this song, you won’t know whether to fall asleep or paint a vivid mental image of your perfect counterpart.

“Self Control” wraps you in its soft chord progression that makes you want to stay forever while Frank’s lyrics warn that even though neither of you want to leave, things have to change, times are different, and his powerhouse ballad is not only going to break your heart, but you’re not going to forget it. With an almost five-part self made harmony following a guitar solo that would make any romantic swoon, this track makes you blush in beginning and the end for completely separate reasons.

“Good Guy” is the predecessor to the extremely poppy “Nights.” “Nights” starts out with a simple guitar lead and beat that leads Frank’s ultra-catchy voice to bounce over the material presented to him. Following suit with the rest of the album, a guitar solo cuts through the middle of the song like a knife, giving way to the third and final movement of the track. The final third is nocturnal, making you feel like you should be cruising in a Honda down an unpopulated street reflecting on past lives and loves that have not only passed, but now haunt you with sentimentality.

“Solo Reprise” secures Andre 3000 of Outkast’s position as the official MC of the year 2016. “Pretty Sweet” feels as if it was the magnum opus of the 90’s noise rock infused fast and awkward EDM club music that is better left in the deep spaces of your abstract step-dads’ CD collection that no one dare visit. “Facebook Story,” like its title, is a statement on the current relationship between electronic media and relationships, except its view comes from right before it was big, making it feel synonymous with the movie “The Social Network.” Following this dialogue, Frank sings “Close To You,” possibly the most metaphysically honest break up song of the current millenia. This short track will break your heart.

“White Ferrari” makes the argument that you should never drive alone. Looking backwards at his teenage years, Frank revisits his drives with his unnamed counterpart and the shy unspoken melancholy feeling he loved so much driving that passenger. Anyone who has driven in silence with others in the car, but a comfortable silence, will easily resonate with this song. Both “Siegfried” and “Godspeed,” meanwhile, are soft ballads fixed with sweet instrumentals and vocals that encompass all of what “Blonde” is about. You can tell how he came up with the name “Boys Don’t Cry” for his magazine.

“Futura Free” closes “Blonde” with an auto-tuned spoken dialogue/rap and harmonized routine that looks at his rise to his current fame in retrospect, thanking the audience and community that has gotten him to the spot of success he is in now. I think I speak for myself as well as the rest of Frank’s fanbase when I say I am satisfied with this finish to the album and ten minute long apology and thanking Frank whole-heartedly deals out to the listener.