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Modern R&B icon Frank Ocean stuns listeners with first album in four years

Frank Ocean: Blonde

Long+awaited+after+the+release+of+his+2012+album%2C+Ocean+released+Blonde+exclusively+on+Apple+Music+on+August+20%2C+2016.+
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Modern R&B icon Frank Ocean stuns listeners with first album in four years

Long awaited after the release of his 2012 album, Ocean released Blonde exclusively on Apple Music on August 20, 2016.

Long awaited after the release of his 2012 album, Ocean released Blonde exclusively on Apple Music on August 20, 2016.

Long awaited after the release of his 2012 album, Ocean released Blonde exclusively on Apple Music on August 20, 2016.

Long awaited after the release of his 2012 album, Ocean released Blonde exclusively on Apple Music on August 20, 2016.

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People say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes it does more than that. It immortalizes, even mythologizes someone into much more than just a person. From Serena Williams to Sid Vicious, Beyonce to Bjork, Frida to the Fleet Foxes, artists, athletes and musicians have an unattainable quality that makes them so easy to romanticize.

Christopher Francis Ocean appeared in the hip hop spotlight under the name Frank Ocean in 2008 when he launched his partnership with Tyler the Creator and the rest of the LA hip-hop group, Odd Future. Four years after his first solo album and disputes with his label Def Jam, Ocean’s fame erupted with the release of the R&B, energetic sensation “Channel Orange”. The public, including his cult following and adoring fans, did not hear from him for the next four years. Until this August. Frank Ocean, after many false alarms, vague Instagram posts and cryptic live streams, released his third studio album, “Blonde”.

“Blonde” opens in a dream state. It feels simplistic, calm, like you are listening from the bottom of a swimming pool. Somewhere between the start of the album and the end of the second track, “Ivy”, it’s already clear that this is not the theatrical, eclectic, Channel Orange. “Blonde” is intimate and introspective, a vision of an older and more mature Frank Ocean. He croons through lofi instrumentals and dreamy synths, combining his R&B roots with the stylistic auto tune of Kanye West and indie influence of Justin Vernon (“Bon Iver”), while in no way letting his influences define his sound. In fact, at times it provides the opposite effect. While Frank tells the listener a story, recites snippets of poetry, it can feel like his voice is isolated from all else.

He strings these monologues and songs together as if it is a journal of fondness, heartbreak, his phone dying, his mom calling, as if it is worn at the edges but full with the romance of photos from a few months ago, torn out and pasted back in again.”

He even includes voicemails from his mother, poems about love and recitations of pain, such as on the track “Facebook Story”. He strings these monologues and songs together as if it is a journal of fondness, heartbreak, his phone dying, his mom calling, as if it is worn at the edges but full with the romance of photos from a few months ago, torn out and pasted back in again.

It is not a perfect album. Upon first listen it can appear monotonous or lacking at times. But although it lacks the energetic and magnetic quality of “Channel Orange”, it is a new, unconcerned sound that grounds Ocean as an artist who is continuing to explore his work while still producing quality content. It is not just a collection of songs arranged carelessly on an album, but a montage of the tenderness and mystery that surrounds Frank Ocean.
Maybe “Blonde” is a sort of self portrait, or reflection on the past four years since we saw Frank Ocean last. Whatever it may be, the album’s intimacy, fluidity and pangs of sadness, are the closest things we have to understanding the elusive artist at the moment. In turn, maybe we will see a bit of ourselves within Frank’s journal, and he will no longer seem so unattainable, but like his album: living, breathing and human.

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