Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Today in our throwback review, we take a look back at 2016's classic album from Odd Future member Frank Ocean - 'Blonde'. This album is considered by many as one of, or in fact THE best album of the 2010's and possibly the best R&B album of all time. So, as usual, let's dive into the review to see if I agree with these comments. The production on this album is immaculate from start to finish. It's melancholy and reflects the atmosphere and vibe of the song perfectly. It's quite simplistic, and mainly consists of light synths, acoustic guitars and piano's are pretty common throughout. Frank Ocean's lyrics are pretty complex and always have multiple layers to them throughout. It takes time to unravel them and it's full of metaphors, imagery and poetic descriptions that pain a picture in your head. His vocals are pretty distorted or sped up for the most part but once you strip that back, his raw vocals are emotional and fantastic. A quick mention to the skits on this album, which are good but don't really add a whole lot. Though I can kind of see why they got their place in the album. Finally, to the key themes and subject matter of this project. This is a really personal record for Frank, with the key themes being: love, relationships, sex, breakups and drugs as an escape. He also reminisces on his younger days at lot this album, and every aspect of this project despite being personal is relatable in one way or another.
The album begins with the lead single ‘Nikes’ as Frank discusses materialism, fakeness in life, with his friends since fame and within relationships. His vocals sound heavenly over this dreamy beat consisting of slow drums, light strings and relaxing synths as he transports you to another place I swear. It’s an incredible start to the album, and gives you a taste of what you can expect to hear. Following that we come to my personal favourite off the album, 'Ivy'. The song looks at a failed relationship while looking back at his mistakes over melancholy production. Frank's vocals are emotional, his metaphors paint a picture in your head while the hook is heartbreaking, catchy and brilliant all coming together to make a fantastic song. 'Pink + White' is co-produced by the legendary Pharrell Williams as the beat is a beautiful, dreamy instrumental consisting of a range of drums and light guitar strings. Using incredible imagery he reminisces on the person who taught many things including how to love. It's a more upbeat sounding song on the album, and one of the most sonically pleasing. Moving onto the next track 'Solo' it's another amazing track. Frank takes on different perspectives of people being alone, with some dealing with it well and others not and hence feeling so low - a double meaning of the title. He uses more complex lyrics and imagery over this beautifully played organ while his voice has the slightest hint of hurt, representing the feeling of being so low.
After a fantastic four track run, we reach the first skip of the album in 'Skyline To'. This seems a pointless track, I wouldn't say it's bad for there's no need for it. It has the usual imagery and metaphors of a Frank Ocean song, but the focus of the track was on sex, older memories, drugs and it just seemed a bit all over the place. The psychedelic production is good but also not as good as the other instrumentals on the track, and as I said I think it could've been left off the album. 'Self Control' is an emotional ballad consisting of only an acoustic guitar as Frank talks on the breakdown of a relationship. You can feel every word he says in this track, especially when he bellows out, "That's like never, 'cause I made you use your self-control // And you made me lose my self-control, my self-control". It's easily one of the most heartfelt, raw and best songs on this album. 'Good Guy' acts as a quick interlude as Frank talks on a date that he realises won't go very far and just end up as sex - causing him to feel disappointment and loneliness. The vocals are slightly sped up, possibly to signal how fast and quick these kind of dates go. It's one of the more straightforward songs with just a piano playing, raw vocals and simple lyrics with no hidden layers. It's a nice interlude, not too long and earns its place in the tracklist. 'Nights' is broken into two parts interluded by a beat switch which happens exactly 30 minutes into the album - therefore splitting the album into two halves. The first part with more upbeat production talks about a relationship (both the good side and the bad side of it), while the slower more melancholy second half speaks on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that Frank was caught in. Like most of the album, this is a very metaphor heavy track but the words are layed down so poetically. It is yet another incredible track on this first half of the album.
'Solo (Reprise)' is solely performed by legendary rapper Andre 3000 and takes on the same themes of 'Solo' and he talks on numerous topics including: his depression, the state of the rap game, his status right now in the rap game, misogyny and police injustices. Lyrically this is as real as it gets with great bars, punchlines and metaphors that are similar to what Frank's have been like so far on this album. The beat again sounds great, despite it just being a few piano keys with a fire trap beat accompanied with great 808s begin introduced midway through the verse for a few seconds. It's short but definitely sweet. The next song 'Pretty Sweet' is short one packed with poetic lines and double entendres. The beat in this is chaotic, and there's no real topic to the song as Frank sings wildly over this beat for dramatic effect - unfortunately though it just doesn't sound good. It switches to a calmer instrumental with guitar strings that still hints at being subliminally chaotic - it picks up at this point of the song but overall is still a low point on the tracklist. 'White Ferrari' is another great track about love and relationships. What makes this track so good is Frank's passion and emotion in his vocals and he talks over heavenly synths before they transform into a guitar ballad - staying consistent the whole time.
'Seigfried' is a song all about Frank's personal life - touching on numerous topics such as love, reaching Nirvana, drugs and even not being able to relate to other people in his field. The beat begins pretty simplistic with just guitar strings and empty space which puts the attention on Frank's sensational vocals - however it starts to get a bit stale in the second verse but luckily for us a whole orchestra gets involve to liven the track back up. Overall it's a great song. 'Godspeed' begins with psychedelic synths and simple piano chords before moving into another organ instrumental performed by James Blake, allowing Frank's raw vocals to emotionally sing about breaking up with somebody, ending it in a mature and kind way. There's a more simplistic way the lyrics are said in this song giving it a more relatable feel to the casual listener - overall it's yet another great track on this album. The finale to this album is the beautiful 'Futura Free'. The melancholy piano bead could alone bring you to tears as Frank reflects on life discussing numerous topics such as: fuck the haters, how far he's come, his success and feud with Christ Brown. The lines, "They tryna find 2Pac, don't let 'em find 2Pac // He evade the press, he escape the stress" always get me man. He then finishes this off with an interview by Frank's younger brother to draw this fantastic album to a close.
To conclude, this project is simply put, fantastic. It's not perfect though, because it's not consistent all throughout. Despite the second still being great, there's a noticeable difference in quality between the first half and the second. It's a perfect album for you though when you're sad, relaxing or need to get in your feels - it can bring a grown man to tears.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Nikes, Ivy, Pink + White, Solo, Self Control, Nights, Solo (Reprise), White Ferrari, Godspeed, Futura Free
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Skyline To
OVERALL RATING: Solid 9/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*