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Sunday January 16th

The new Frank Ocean album is worth the (four year) wait

<p>The newest Frank Ocean album, "Blonde"</p>
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The newest Frank Ocean album, "Blonde"

We all knew a new Frank Ocean album was coming, we just didn’t know when.

By the looks of it, Frank Ocean himself didn’t know when either. He didn’t release his album on Friday, Aug. 5, after The New York Times published an article anticipating “Boys Don’t Cry” would be on Apple Music that day. Not only did Ocean wait until Aug. 19 to release music, leaving fans desperate since he released his previous album, "Channel Orange," on July 10, 2012 — he also released a visual album, “Endless”, a day before “Blonde” itself became available.

The four years that Frank Ocean took to perfect his music and maintain its sanctity is proven through his release of a visual album, his second album, a music video for “Nikes,” and an art magazine (CD included) that was only available in pop up shops in four different cities.

The release of “Blonde” as well as the other content Ocean has produced mirrors the complexity and intrigue of the music itself. The album title, spelt "Blonde" in writing but stylized as "Blond" on the album art, expresses the gender binary to which he doesn’t conform to, and sets the foreground for an album about self expression and sensuality. Ocean uses his voice to speak out about violence, judgement, and the materialistic, wealth-obsessed world that he lives in with us.

The music video for “Nikes,” while explicit, offers a glimpse of what the entire album is like. Tasteful sensuality is mixed with images that show Ocean wearing a signature outfit, including black Nike Decades, famously worn by the cult Heaven’s Gate at the time of their collective group suicide.His addition of another voice in the video version of the song alludes to the multiple tensions and conflict in society and serves as a perfect example of how his artistry combines truth and meaning with music. 

One of his most notable lines from the album, “RIP Trayvon, that nigga look just like me,” in “Nikes” proves that Ocean is courageous in tackling any subject, regardless of its sensitivity, in his music. Parallels exist between Blonde and albums released by Chance the Rapper and Kanye West this year, "Coloring Book" and "Life of Pablo" respectively, which all delve deeply into emotion and gospel youth at a time when people have to prove that their lives matter.

Ocean uses subtlety and layers within his beats and his lyrics to tell a story about his own life as a bisexual black artist as well. He maintains hints of the same poetic, R&B style that made "Channel Orange" what it is, but mainly uses computerized sounds and gradual beats that place “Blonde” alongside other urban pop albums more so than soul.

Ocean, a prominent voice amongst these modern day heroes, collaborates on the track "Solo (Reprise)" with Andre 3000, member of OutKast and famous himself for speaking out against continued racism and injustice in the United States. One line in the song regrettably focuses on current events as Andre says, “When I hear that another kid is shot by the popo it ain’t an event / No more”.

Andre 3000 at a concert wearing a shirt that says, “across cultures, darker people suffer most. why?”

Songs on the album such as "Seigfried," "White Ferrari" and "Nights" dive into how Frank Ocean deals with bravery, break-ups, a difficult past, and his bisexuality. Never one to shy away from saying the unspoken, Ocean combines lyrical ingenuity with a hypnotic and almost therapeutic sound to create a message that is encompassing this phase of his life, something that he says on his Tumblr that he “was asking the cosmos for when (he) was a kid.”

With influence from the Beatles, and features on the album by artists like Beyonce, Ocean connects music across all genres and emotions while opening up existential conversation about why we exist, and more specifically why we exist in such typically violent transgressions against minorities.

Though Frank Ocean has yet to answer these questions, “Blonde” sets him at the forefront of the music stage as arguably one of the most influential artists of our time. On his Tumblr, he posted a note to his fans:

“I had the time of my life making all of this. Thank you all. Especially those of you who never let me forget I had to finish. Which is basically every one of ya’ll. Haha. Love you.”

We love you too, Frank. 

@total_cass_move

swerve@dailytarheel.com

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