Who’s still listening to Blonde? A Retrospective

Frank Ocean’s first studio album, Channel Orange, came out in 2012, July 10th. Those who hadn’t already fallen in love with Frank Ocean’s cool delicacy; the man who wears his sensitivities with the swank of a pimp in his chosen colours. The writer who paints pictures with the perception of an ancient storyteller or a street rhymer. A master of metaphor, blessed not with necessarily the strongest voice, but the most emotive. Those who hadn’t already fallen in love yet, did.

 

Hip Hop’s butterfly. Born of the culture, a member of Odd Future’s body of talented and brazen characters. A queer black man, in tune with himself, inquisitive about his existence, observant of other humans and analytical of the world. He channels his eclectic nature throughout his music, by referencing his taste and many influences.

 

“When I met you, you were Thom Yorke, Chris Martin and U2. When you met me I was Three 6, Pimp C, Bun B, 8-Ball and MJG” he sings over keys on ‘Acura Intergurl’. “I’m a punk, I’m a black man, I could dunk” he speaks on his collaboration with Mick Jones, Diplo and Paul Simonon.

 

I don’t know a single individual who hasn’t sung “or do you not think so far ahead?” with passion, or imagined Cleopatra of Pyramids’ beauty. Safe to say Channel Orange has taken listeners of the artist through many a summer night and several experiences. This beautiful work, so far has stood the test of time in this “here today, gone tomorrow” generation of the internet.

 

But after a time, we the listeners needed a new fix. We yearned impatiently for the next chapter of Lonny Breaux’ musings. All whilst, the dealer went into hiding and removed himself from the world wide web, (except from the occasional update of his tumblr blog). Rejecting the hyper-visibility of being a beloved artist, yet still relentlessly teasing with hints of a new project.

 

Then finally, the day after Endless, it came. August 20th 2016. Blonde.

Where Channel Orange was at times ambiguous, Blonde is total cathartic acceptance. It is like the unravelling of the “thank you” letter he wrote before releasing Channel Orange. The letter about his first love, in which he wrote “I don’t know what happens now, and that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore.”

 

“To my first love, I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even though it wasn’t what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. Some things never are… and we were.”

 

-Acceptance.

 

I’m still listening to Blonde. I’ve cried to the album, I’ve fallen asleep to it, connected with it, released through it, made sense of emotions through it, further understood the artist through it.

 

“BLONDE SOLD A MILLION PLUS WITHOUT A LABEL, THAT’S SUCCESSFUL.”

 

My rule with music: feel first, critique later. Music heads, music critics, music snobs and music journalists are similar in that they can get so caught up in the technicalities, that they forget to just feel. Forming opinions before allowing room for emotional responses.

Your favourite song today, may not be your favourite song tomorrow and the best song might not be the single. Blonde is pure, raw and unreserved emotion.

 

I’ve come to accept that “feelings are the only facts”; understanding where you are in this present moment, allowing yourself to feel to your full extent. Not holding back from the intensity of your being.

 

Sometimes that intensity might sound the like scream at the end of ‘Ivy’, and to many that might be off putting, it may feel undesirable. That’s okay because your freedom to be, is worth more than an opinion. Life is for living and not stifling.

I am accepting that you cannot ever completely rationalise human emotion, because as you come to one conclusion or a experience a revelation, it takes only 1 second for all that you deemed fact to become questionable again. Humans are turbulent in this way. Sometime’s we’re colourful, sometimes we’re grey areas and sometimes we’re either black or white.

 

“We’ll go down this road ’til it turns from colour to black & white” (‘Thinkin Bout You’, Channel Orange)

 

Things don’t always make sense, and that’s fact. Like how Frank sings “we’re not in love, but I’ll make love to you” on ‘Nikes’. Some situations feel right for a very long time, until they don’t. Being able to accept, means you have understood why you are where you are, and why you are who you have become. This is powerful. This produces work like Blonde. This cuts the strings being controlled by anyone who will try to make your their puppet. This buys all of your masters back in the prime of your career.

 

“Don’t try to be someone else, be yourself and know, that that’s good enough” (‘Be Yourself’, Blonde)