By: Nina Clevinger and Tatiana Hazel
You may not think you are God, Frank Ocean, and you are right.
In a sense.
You see, “God" is a concept. He - whoever he is, or it is, or whatever - is the name given to the extraordinary forces and magic and love and energies and souls and life that resides inside of each and every person on this planet, and all of the planets in the solar system, and all of the systems in the Universe, and all of the Universes in existence. “God" is the name given to whatever the hell that is - that higher power, that uplifting source of energy that keeps the Earth turning and people kissing and records spinning and flowers blooming. “God" is anything that is wonderful, and pure, and good.
I myself am not religious, but I would be a fool to say there isn’t something out there that is the reason for all of the incredible things in existence. A complete and utter fool.
So naturally, Frank Ocean, you’re right in saying you’re not God. You’re not - no one is, nor is no thing. But, Frank, you’re also wrong in saying you’re not God. Because you are. A part of what “God" is, at least.
You are a person - just a person! - but you are a dangerously gifted and exclusively coveted person. You understand art, you understand music, and you understand that the things that we don’t think are art, are. You understand you’re just a human being, just like everyone else - but you also understand that everyone else sees you as an extraterrestrial from some extraordinary place. You understand how to put your talents to incredible use, and you understand how important it is to put yourself first. You are your entire life, you see. You should be first.
Yeah, maybe sometimes I do wish I could hear a new Frank Ocean song every day. But then, I think, it would lose its magic. Its mystery. You took a lengthy break, Frank, but it made your music that much better. It made it something we really had to work for, wait for. Something that became an obsession - as most things do, when they go on for prolonged periods of time.
The mystery of Frank Ocean’s new album is my favorite mystery of my entire life thus far. I had some friends who hypothesized your new album to be terrible, which is why you wouldn’t release it. Other friends thought there was no new album at all. Some didn’t care much when it came out, as long as it did eventually. Others tracked you day and night.
It was on my twentieth birthday that you released what we all thought was the album, which in a sense - it was. Endless came out that night, and my friends and I huddled around a laptop on the hardwood floors in their new apartment, sipping from our drinks and not letting our eyeballs look at absolutely anything but the small screen in front of us.
Then, as I was furiously trying to download the new album on the car ride home, I had a small feeling of disappointment take over my body. I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I was. I am. The entire idea of Boys Don’t Cry, Endless, the construction video on loop. It’s smart, it’s different, it’s completely and utterly thought-out, but in the best way. It’s something I’ve never seen before, in two whole decades on this planet. And still, that little feeling of disappointment was creeping around inside.
This feeling of confusion is somewhat portrayed visually throughout Endless.
Personally, I took the video as one big metaphor for fans’ perceptions of Frank’s new album. Throughout the video he can be seen building a staircase, while new music blasts through speakers in a large white room. The audience listens and waits patiently - after all, this is the moment we have all been waiting for these past four years, isn’t it?
So, Frank building this staircase represents his fans' growing anticipation. When the moment finally comes to find out what the staircase leads to, voila! It leads to nothing.
Perhaps it leads to something the audience just can’t see, or perhaps it signifies more to come. Either way, it seems that we, the audience, may have over-hyped this long-awaited release.
So you’re right, Frank. We, your fans, put entirely too much pressure on you as an artist. We put you on a pedestal - one you definitely deserve to be on - but not one you need to be. We love you! We shouldn’t expect you to be perfect. You gave us the art movement of the century - one even bigger than Kanye’s, in my opinion - and we still wanted more. Myself included. I wanted more. I’m sorry.
It is important that we don’t overlook Endless. The video - a work of art in itself - has already been forgotten by many fans because it’s not the ‘real album.’
Listening to the project as a whole, it’s difficult to distinguish where certain songs start and end. Other songs, however, are so contradictory to each other that the transitions almost cause us to question how something so in-cohesive can be called a single project. I have grown to love this about Endless. The acoustic guitar riffs, heavy synths, vocals ranging from smooth to aggressive… these are all the things that make the project one-of-a-kind.
But then… but then, Frank. You did it. You did the thing that makes us think you’re “God.” You gave us more. You gave us everything.
You gave us Blonde.
The moment I realized 'Oh shit, there is another album,' I flocked to the internet, waited patiently until the moment I could open Apple Music, and there it was: Blonde. I listened from start to finish with my boyfriend, and to be completely honest, we didn’t know what to make of it.
“So...are all the vocals pitched up?”
“Damn, this song is hot as hell!”
Every song provoked a different reaction, and after a few more listens, we came to a conclusion: Blonde is nothing short of what fans have been waiting for all these years.
Maybe there aren’t any pop hits like “Thinking Bout You,” but this album doesn’t need that. Blonde is simply Frank creating the music that he wants to create, not what we, the audience, want to hear. This is what every artist should be doing all the time, as it makes for a way more genuine listening experience.
Anyone who I have spoken with about Blonde states that “Ivy” is their favorite song. This doesn’t really come as a surprise to me, I figured as much the first time my boyfriend and I listened to each song with my speaker on full volume. The song hit me in a way that a lot of the other songs didn’t. “Ivy” is emotional, moving, relatable, and simply beautiful to listen to.
Another personal favorite is “Solo (Reprise)”. André 3000 touches on ghostwriters and rappers in the industry today. It’s hard to find artists that write all of their own music and are genuine about what they do these days. The song perfectly fits into Frank’s project, considering Frank has been writing and perfecting his own music for years, and is one of the realest artists making music.
Besides the lyrical significance, this song is musically brilliant, with simple piano backing André’s verse until the 808’s come in (this is the point in which the “Damn, this song is hot as hell!” comment was made) then transitions quickly back into piano. Genius.
Overall, Frank Ocean has given us one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time, for the second time. I keep bumping the album on the daily, finding something new to love every time.
Get the album on Apple Music.