Track-by-Track Album Review: Frank Ocean’s “Blond”
Written by Julia Ong on August 24, 2016
After 4 years, 1 month, and 10 days of waiting, Frank Ocean has finally released his newest album, Blond. A couple listens in, I decided to take a shot at doing a track-by-track review of the long awaited album.
- “Nikes” – The very first single that was released via music video following Frank’s visual album, Endless. Unlike the relaxed, dreamy vibe of the rest of the album, “Nikes” is filled with tension between two different voices that seem to fight for your attention. The music video emphasizes this sense of conflict with cropped, slow cuts of nudity, expensive cars, and partying. Watch the music video for “Nikes” here.
- “Ivy” – “Ivy” gives off such a heavy Beach Fossils sound I wouldn’t be surprised if they helped produce it or inspired the track. The guitars and bass are dreamy, space-like and elevate Frank’s sincere lyricism about past regrets, growing up, and about his first love. In his thank you message to his fans he gives insight about the story Ivy is based off of. After playing all of “Blond” in my car I can honestly say “Ivy,” “Nights,” and “Pink + White” are my favorite songs to drive late at night to.
- “Pink + White” – This hazily produced track kept me swaying side to side as Frank went into detail about a past lover and his downhill experience with the relationship. Beyonce’s vocals and Frank’s singing combined with Pharrell Williams production makes for a fantastic track.
- “Be Yourself” – As the title suggests, this is a 1:26 snippet of what I assume to be Frank Ocean’s mother giving him advice on being himself and to staying away from marijuana and alcohol.
- “Solo” – “Solo” is definitely one of the more church oriented songs. The organs are bold and create a melodic flow which Frank sings this unique hook on Blond:
It’s hell on Earth and the city’s on fire. Inhale, inhale that’s heaven. There’s a bull and a matador dueling in the sky. Inhale, inhale that’s heaven.
I love hearing Frank in these mellow sort of songs that just take you on a ride. I legit feel like I’m floating when that chorus kicks in.
- “Skyline To” – This track is one of the quieter songs that you tend to pass on in the first listen, but this song has grown to be one of my favorites off Blond.The quiet guitar and drums combined with the spacey production and short interlude create such a unique sound. It is not a surprise to see that Tyler, The Creator helped produced this song and Kendrick Lamar is featured on the background vocals.
BLOND IS NOW AVAILABLE. THANKS BIG BRO FOR ALLOWING ME TO BE APART OF IT
— T (@tylerthecreator) August 20, 2016
- “Self Control” – Like the first track, “Self Control” kicks off with a distorted high pitched voice talking and transcends into a smooth guitar playing. The best part about this track is the progression of emotion in Frank’s vocals and the guitars. Oh, and Yung Lean and Austin Feinstein (who helped produce “Self Control” and direct Tyler, The Creator’s video for “Perfect“) are featured in the chorus, no big deal.
- “Nights” – “Nights” includes a dramatic ass beat change in the middle which I really loved. The first part is strictly Frank rapping about his nights go and ends in a ridiculous guitar riff into nothing. Then when the second part kicks off, it catches you off guard. The most impressive part of “Nights,” in my opinion, is Frank using the same verse on each part and even though the beats are completely different, they still fit seamlessly.
- “Solo (Reprise)” – This short 1:19 track strictly composes of Andre 3000 rapping with vigor. He goes into subjects from police shooting kids to rappers who no longer write their own verses. Andre 3000 is rarely heard from in the hip hop world, but when he does rap he blows everyone away. I’ve seen him be referred to as the hip hop’s own “Yoda.” After hearing “Solo (Reprise),” the title seems to fit him well. Listen to this track here.
- “Pretty Sweet” – I couldn’t make sense of this song very well. It starts off with what seems to be a bunch of noise, drumming, and a graphic verse and slides into children singing the title of the track. Not one of my favorites, but the harmony at the end is pretty cool.
- “Facebook Story” – This track is strictly just a skit where a French producer by the name of SebastiAn recalls a relationship that didn’t succeed because of Facebook drama. This track makes more sense when it transitions into “Close to You.”
- “Close to You” –This track skims over the previous skit and Frank sings about how he didn’t need this girl anyways. I honestly wish this track was a tad bit longer since it is a cool remix of Stevie Wonder’s cover of “Close To You” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
- “White Ferrari” – There’s an excerpt in the Boys Don’t Cry Magazine where Frank saw a picture of a young girl strapped in a car and imagined himself in her place driving fast and feeling the “seatbelt [tighten]… and [press] on internal organs” (Read the full excerpt here). As I heard “White Ferrari,” I could imagine this scene playing out in my head in slow motion. Despite the lyrics eluding to somewhat of a love story, I like to imagine it as Frank being trapped inside this car he can’t get out of. Don’t underestimate this track, it’s one you’ll definitely need to listen to a couple of times to appreciate.
- “Seigfried” – If you search the word ‘seigfried’ on Google, you’ll find that it is the combination of two Germanic words – ‘sig,’ which means victory, and ‘frithu,’ meaning protection and peace. It’s pretty interesting to hear Frank’s musical interpretation of this definition in “Seigfried” as he repeatedly says how he’s not brave. Watch the video below to see the first time Frank Ocean performed “Seigfried” live.
- “Godspeed” – This track reminds me a lot of being in a church like “Solo” did, but less upbeat. I still don’t think I’ve listened to it enough to appreciate all the musical elements, but I do think it’s worth the listen. It reminds me a lot of being in a church like “Solo” did, but less upbeat. Frank also talked about this track in his Boys Don’t Cry Magazine. This is what he had to say:
I wrote a story in the middle – it’s called ‘Godspeed’. It’s basically a reimagined part of my boyhood. Boys do cry, but I don’t think I shed a tear for a good chunk of my teenage years. It’s surprisingly my favourite part of my life so far. Surprising, to me, because the current phase is what I was asking the cosmos for when I was a kid. Maybe that part had it’s rough stretches too, but in my rearview mirror it’s getting small enough to convince myself it was all good. And really though… It’s still all good.
- “Futura Free” – Blond comes to an end on “Futura Free.” Like “Nights,” it’s split into two parts, the first composing of Frank ranting and rambling about fame, sexuality, and celebrities who died too early such as Selena and Tupac Shakur. His rap then ends in silence and starts off again into the last skit which is an interview of Frank’s little brother, Ryan Breaux, Illegal Civilization, and famous skateboarder, Sage Elsesser.
The interview is pretty normal for the most part, but soon ends on the question “How far is a light year?” The track then soon glitches and ends just like Frank’s Endless stream did.
TL;DR: Blond as a whole is musically diverse and challenges Frank’s listeners to see world from his eyes. It includes some of Frank’s strongest lyricism to date and touches upon topics such as love, sexuality, regrets, and life. “Blond” has some very memorable songs throughout the album, but also some tracks that tend to become background music if you don’t listen closely enough. I completely enjoyed hearing a piece of work that has taken Frank four long years to create. I’d even go as far to say that “Blond” has surpassed “Channel Orange.”
Listen to: Nikes, Ivy, Pink+ White, Solo, Solo (Reprise), Siegfried, White Ferrari, Godspeed
Skip over: Pretty Sweet, Facebook Story
If you’ve listened to Blond, tell us your thoughts on Frank Ocean’s newest release. Any favorite songs or moments from the album? Let us know in the comments below.