Frank Ocean’s Blonde fails to meet expectations


The title on the cover is Blond, but the album was released as Blonde on Apple Music. As he says on the song “Nike’s” “I got two versions.”

The word ‘anticipation’ isn’t enough to capture the attitude of millions of people begging Frank Ocean to release a new album after his 2012 hit Channel Orange. It was far from perfect, but Ocean’s potential was clear.  While this new project, Blonde, (previously Boys Don’t Cry) built up massive hype, this album doesn’t satisfy the cravings for a Channel Orange follow-up.  Blonde was released officially on Aug. 20 through Def Jam Records, and it feels rather underwhelming.

Blonde kicks off with the song “Nike’s,” and despite being an excellent vocalist, Ocean’s vocals are pitch-shifted into a chipmunk-like voice that sucks the life out of his performance.  Even at the end of the song, where the vocal effects are lessened, his voice sounds sterile.  The instrumental on this song also becomes stale very quickly, because it doesn’t progress throughout the song.

This problem reoccurs for a sizeable portion of the album. Most of the instrumentals are very simple, such as those on the song “Ivy.”  This song features repetitive and reverb-soaked keys, which become tiresome.  Other instrumentals on songs like “Skyline to,” “Seigfried,” and “White Ferrari” are very quiet.  While simplicity can produce good songs, the tracks are so simple that they’re boring.

However, when Ocean’s voice dominates, it produces the best songs on this album. “Solo” features one of Ocean’s most animated vocal performances layered over an ethereal humming, and the personality in his voice is amazing.

“Pink + White” has the best instrumental on the album with simple guitar melodies and percussion.  This instrumental complements Ocean, who once again performs wonderfully.  The way he describes his struggles with drugs with his lyrics is gripping.  “Nights” features powerful vocals from Ocean over wavy synths and bouncy percussion, and Ocean’s high-pitched singing at the end of this song is gorgeous.  These three songs are Ocean’s best performances, but “Solo (Reprise)” is another highlight because of Andre 3000’s rapid fire flow on this track.

The rest of the track-list is mediocre.  Like the song “Close to You,” where Ocean’s vocals are once again tampered with horribly.  His otherwise distinct, beautiful voice becomes metallic and anonymous.  However, the punchy, crisp drum beat paired with the gorgeous synths on this song make it enjoyable.  When Frank’s vocals aren’t studio edited, he gives gorgeous performances, and this happens through the majority of the album.  Although some instrumentals are lackluster, Ocean’s performances carry the tracks and make them decent.

Also, the interlude cuts “Be Yourself” and “Facebook Story” aren’t very enjoyable.  These two tracks are recordings of conversation that have deep messages.  Ocean should’ve created songs about these topics rather than dumping these interludes here, which add nothing sonically to this record.

While Channel Orange was a really good record, Blonde was solid, but it was also disappointing. Ocean’s vocal performance on Blonde is much better, but inconsistent track listing and a lack of instrumental direction hold this album back.   This album is too quiet for me, and the producer credits gave Ocean an opportunity to make something bolder.