Can you believe Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange was only released a mere four years ago? The way fans have been lamenting of his disappearance had me feeling like he’d been gone for decades—and, honestly, it really felt like it. Avid listeners have been waiting in great anticipation for his next hit to come. In this mess of a year 2016, the wait is now over.
On August 20, 2016 Blonde was released and available exclusively to stream via Apple Music and for sale through the iTunes store (and only as a full album! It’s all or none for Blonde!). Featuring collaborations with Andre 3000, an old friend from his previous album, and other big names like Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé; and according to Billboard, Blonde charts the third-largest debut of 2016, behind only the releases of Drake’s Views and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
Some were a little disappointed, and fans were and are still constantly comparing his sophomore album to its predecessor Channel Orange, but his growth as an artist and a person is evident throughout his album. In contrast to the upbeat songs of his previous album like “Lost”, ballads dominate Blonde and most tracks find Ocean crooning over very minimal and low-tempo instrumentals. There just seems to be something organic or unrefined about his delivery—his unadorned delivery in many of his tracks is as equally bare as the stories he tells in these songs. His songwriting is heavy with imagery, modern allusions, and metaphors.
Before, Frank Ocean was always a removed figure; singing and commenting on someone else or about something else. His overarching themes had been of lust, wealth, and love, such as songs like “Super Rich Kids” where it is not clear the story is even of him; now it seems his take has taken an autobiographical turn. Although there are consistent themes portrayed in this album as well; such as intimacy, unrequited love, and nostalgia. Now, it appears he is as emotionally bare as he is physically on his album cover.
Blonde presents itself with an air of maturity as Ocean carries his listeners seemingly lazily from track to track with their mellow beats even though he is ultimately at his most intimate state as he turns his gaze inward.