First off, let me get the excuses in early; I’m absolutely terrible at writing about music, so this is probably a bad idea from the off. It’s also going to end up extremely long, so there’s a high chance of tl:dr.
Secondly, let me forewarn anyone still reading that if you don’t like modern music, this will be a slog and you’d be best off ducking out now before I really start talking bollocks.
With those pleasantries out of the way…. Sewer Robot recently asked me to write a review of Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” (all hate mail to SR for what follows). I demurred, on the basis that (a) I’m not very good at music reviews, because I tend to just like what I like and not wish to think too deeply about it all; and (b) it took me a very, very long time to get my head around FO’s last record (the wonderful “channel: Orange”), and I therefore thought it might be a little too early to venture a view on Blonde. Ocean’s albums are not renowned for their immediacy, and I often change my mind.
Having made my cowardly excuses, I slunk away and realised that – as has been the case since its release – I’m listening to Blonde pretty much every day, and I’m thinking about it quite a lot, and therefore maybe there would be some merit to trying to get some thoughts down about it all, if only to clear a bit of headspace. What follows is therefore largely therapeutic/masturbatory, although if it does anything for anyone else out there, then – hey – that’s a bonus too.
Rather than a straight up review, which would inevitably just descend into my issuing a string of superlatives into the collective lugholes of a largely unmoved Massive, I thought I might take a different structural approach here. I think that in order to really get why Frank Ocean is exciting and (dare I say it) possibly a bit important to the young folk, you need to know a little bit about where he’s come from, where he’s at, and where he seems to be going. What follows is my attempt to paint that picture via a whistle-stop tour of nine tracks which I think are useful context to Blonde, presented in chronological order. Spotify playlist provided below for them what can. Otherwise, YouTube is your friend.
Final warning: to proceed further involves exposing yourself to the Genre That Shall Not Be Named. I’m talking Afterword-unfriendly “R&B” here. Not the good, old fashioned R&B with guitars and proper singing, either. I mean the modern stuff, with all the crooning and the love making and the crotch grabbing. Part of the story of Frank Ocean is how that genre, seemingly moribund and isolationist and the turn of the millennium, became the outward-facing, avant garde-rocking soundscape that ate the modern world.
Hands inside the vehicle, hold on to your valuables, and here we go….
(Continues after the jump)