I have invested some extra time trying to make sense of today’s album, “Blonde” by Frank Ocean. It is a very highly regarded concept album, compared by some to “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, and is rated #79 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. I won’t ever reach that level of affection for this record, and it is a bit of a challenging listen, but like almost all of these records, I found some nuggets I enjoyed.
Frank Ocean is a talented and soulful singer who has thrived across multiple genres in the past decade. For this record, there is a lot of electronic distortion and reproduction of his voice, and on some songs, it works, and on others, I find it a bit annoying. I love how it opens the lead single and first track on the record, “Nikes”. Yet, on the very next song, “Ivy”, his voice is inexplicably transformed into Phyllis Diller in a S&M machine at the end of the song, and there is nothing I yield from that whatsoever.
There are multiple spoken word tracks on the record, which I’m sure have some context and meaning but leave me a little confused. We appear to have his mom repeatedly telling him not to do drugs on “Be Yourself”, and on “Facebook Story”, the thick European accent reminds me of “Giorgio by Moroder” by Daft Punk. They are entertaining, but I can’t say I understand their placement and context here.
As I detected on “Lemonade”, I heard fragments of other classics seeping through on two successive songs on this record, and the songwriting credits confirmed my suspicions. “Close to You” is in fact a highly reworked transformation of the same song performed by the Carpenters and written by Burt Bacharach, and as I listened to “White Ferrari”, I was sure I heard elements of “Here, There and Everywhere” by the Beatles, which was reinforced by the omnipresent Lennon & McCartney in the songwriting credits.
In total, I would say this album is a bit too abstract for me, but I did really like “Nikes” and some of the other highlights I referenced above. I know my son is a huge Frank Ocean fan, and I can see some similarities in style with Drake, although Frank Ocean is a much more evolved singer. This is certainly representative of the music of the time, and I’m glad I invested the effort to get to know it well.