After a four-year break, constant teases and come-and-go release dates, Frank Ocean’s sophomore effort, “Blond,” was worth the wait.
The album kicks off on a dreary note with “Nikes,” a track accentuated by hi-hats, 808s and high-pitched vocals. Here we find Frank tackling the subject of materialism and the pleasures it brings. “Pink + White,” the third track on the album, shows off an atmospheric sound complemented by piano keys and vocals by Beyoncé toward the end.
In a way, Ocean is reusing the formula from his successful album, “Channel Orange,” in 2012: A series of tracks that touched on weighty subjects—desire, despair and the two sides of a privileged lifestyle—set over lush and airy beats.
“Ivy” and “Close To You” reach into the murky waters of past relationships. One focuses on the act of falling in love and the other discusses a break-up, along with the theory that ex-lovers will still remember the good times as well.
In “Solo,” we find Frank discussing his experiences of being alone. During the chorus, using a play on the title, Ocean envisions himself being in hell because he is so low to the ground. As a result, he uses substance as a means to get high so that he can reach heaven from the fiery realm.
“Solo (Reprise)” even features legendary emcee André 3000 delivering a rapid-fire verse where he questions the current state of hip-hop and how he feels when compared to other contemporaries. “Siegfried” sees Frank at his most vulnerable, questioning his own future personally and career-wise. Here, he states that he would rather stay true to his pride than sell out like other artists.
The closing track, “Futura Free,” reveals a bit of Frank’s past while also paying homage to the many people who have helped him on his way to fame.
While this album displays some great tracks, many of the skits don’t really add or complement its progression. Maybe these are experiences from Frank’s life during the process of making this album, but they’re not essential.
“Blond” is a masterful work that is filled with focused, detailed tracks that remain quick to the point. Ocean’s songwriting skills have grown stronger since his debut, “Nostalgia Ultra,” especially in his ability to grasp his listeners without filler.
For now, Ocean’s next album remains untitled and undated, but if it’s anything like “Blond” then the artist should take as much time as he needs.
“Nikes,” “Pink + White,” “Solo,” “Siegfried,” “Godspeed”
“White Ferrari,” “Self Control,” “Pretty Sweet”
8.5 out of 10.