This review will be a bit unorthodox. I’ve written it a handful of times but had a hard time defining why I liked the album. I couldn't be straightforward and say, "I liked it because song A, B, and C had incredible production", or the "lyrics of tracks D, E, and F really connected with me", or "so and so killed it in the feature" (though Andre 3000 DOES kill it in the feature). In fact, the album, while not boring the first time around, didn’t seem to be offering me much. It was good, but didn’t see it as anything special, which I stated in my last Weekly Roundup. Then one afternoon my perception changed, and I’ve been trying to describe it ever since. Now I think I’ve finally figured it out…
A few years after it had come and gone, a local theater decided to have a late night showing of Lost In Translation. I’d never seen it; when it came out I remember having little interest, but for some reason when I saw it was playing I suddenly had this irrepressible urge. My mom was gracious enough to drop me off/ buy my ticket because the lady behind the counter shut me down (I wasn’t 17, what did she think was going to happen? Were a lot of teens sneaking into a two year old niche films and causing problems?). I ended up being the only one in the theater, which I love. Once the film started it only took a few minutes to fall under it’s spell. You know that feeling when you experience something at the exact moment you’re supposed to? Not in the way where it's a defining moment of realization or self awareness, but more seeing a movie that fit my mood perfectly. It was simultaneously exactly what I wanted and needed.
After it ended I felt glued to my seat, watching the credits roll, in a trance; I didn't want to move, I only wanted to exist in that atmosphere. That’s the best way I can describe Frank Ocean’s Blonde. It didn’t happen right away either, in fact it wasn’t until the weekend following its release, as I sat in my bed midday, reading; I set down my book, turned to my computer and put it on, laid there, and that’s when it hit me. Every time I’ve listened to it since, which has been quite a few times, it gets better.
I would describe that moment, when I experienced my leap in appreciation, as hypnotic more than anything else. As it washed over me, I was so contented with just laying there and listening, I wanted nothing else. And though I was hearing what he was saying, it was more the mood he created that paralyzed me. It was so peaceful. The album could have been four hours long and I would have been fine with it. Like with Lost In Translation, I just wanted to exist in it’s atmosphere. At the same time, if someone described their experience with the album as monotonous, I would completely understand. You either feel it or you don’t. What took me a week to realize may never materialize for someone else. If you’re reading this and love the album you’re probably agreeing with everything I’m saying, at least in a general sense, and if you didn’t enjoy it, you’re probably thinking I listened to a different record.
Each song is a piece to a puzzle, and it only feels right when it’s complete. Even the interludes play an important role in the feel, and though there are songs I prefer, out of context I don’t appreciate them as much. I start the album with the intention to finish it, which is why I like it so much. It never feels repetitive, despite maintaining a steady temperament (only straying away on the back half of “Pretty Sweet,” with a stretch of fast drum and base). I was in a stupor for most of the album, stretches like “Solo” through “Nights” or “Close To You” through to the closer “Futura Free” had me in a state of inertia. It’s rare that things truly satisfy you, and I mean truly. Something that’s exactly what you want from top to bottom, or in this case front to back. Frank Ocean’s Blonde is truly satisfying.
While I lament the fact that I can’t post a link to the entire album, as it’s not available for streaming (yet), I’ll post a single song. I think, more than anything, “Siegfried” represents the album, from both an atmospheric and lyrical perspective. The instrumentals sit in the back, like a light fog, as he questions if life would be better if he went the conventional route, before stating he’s not brave enough to follow that dream, before transitioning to a state of nirvana, questioning his life and all that exists in it. This album, at it’s core, is an invitation into a mind and life that keeps shut as much as possible, which is what ultimately what will keep me coming back, because even when I know every word and every note like the back of my hand, what he has to say, and how he says it will keep my mind entertained long after.