He was worth the wait. Was it even a question if he would be worth the wait? Frank Ocean, or FRANK in all caps with multiple exclamation points as I like to call him, finally, FINALLY gifted us with his artistic genius in the form of a visual album, a music video, a new album and a magazine over the weekend. It’s a lot. Someone on Twitter joked that it’s so much, we probably won’t see Frank again for a decade. I’m worried that they will be right. But that’s OK. I think we’ve all learned that it’s OK to let Frank Ocean take his time.
Since Channel Orange, Frank’s mystery and cultural impact has grown exponentially. Some will say it’s because of his openness about his sexuality and how important it is to see a non-straight black man dominate R&B and hip-hop. Yes, that has to do with it but also… Frank let us miss him. We are used to the Rihannas and Drakes of the world who constantly churn out hit after hit. Or the Taylor Swifts who take breaks shorter than the wait in between Game of Throne seasons. And do press telling us why they are on a break. And still show up in PEOPLE magazine every week. For me, Frank's calibre of artistry is above all of the artists I just mentioned. It may even be above anyone else in the game. But what Frank also has over everyone else is that he has mastered the long lost art of patience in the ADD generation.
Of course, we wouldn’t care about the wait if we weren’t starving for new music. THE MUSIC! It’s so good. God, it’s so good.
I spent all weekend in a Frank Ocean hole. I didn’t know if I would make it to work today. What is time? What is life? After a weekend of Frank, I don’t know anymore.
Let’s start with the visual album Endless since that dropped first. The 45-minute, 18-track opus is GORGEOUS. It’s also weird, mesmerizing and confusing. If you were tuned into the Boys Don’t Cry live stream, you were watching the making of this visual album in real time. The album shows Frank building a spiral staircase from scratch. We literally watched him build this thing, wood plank by wood plank. Step by step. He's not being subtle. He's showing us the work and the time it takes to be great. The songs that accompany the visual of Frank sawing wood in a Playboy sweater are just as riveting. His cover-cover of the Aaliyah/Isley Brothers At Your Best (You Are Love) is a must listen. Seriously, go listen to it. Now.
Next up in the weekend rollout that was Frank Ocean Christmas, we got Nikes, the music video. The song is making headlines for a brief tribute to Trayvon Martin (Frank sings, “that n**** looked just like me”) but the video gives us plenty more to talk about. Again, it’s weird, mesmerizing and confusing. Between the glitter tears, mermaids and rapping chihuahuas, you can’t look away. These images are perfectly complimented by Frank’s eerie distorted vocals. I’m obsessed.
Then, there’s Blonde. Or Blond? It’s listed as Blonde on iTunes so let’s go with that.
Blonde is everything we wanted it to be. It’s sporadic yet intentional. It’s smooth yet uneven – in the best way. It’s meticulous and triumphant. It’s gender-bending and sexually fluid with songs that feature female love interests and others that are love songs to men. The tracks are all timeless even if none of them are conventional radio hits like Thinking About You. Blonde is serious and introspective yet playful. The playful comes in a hilariously relatable voicemail from his mom sternly warning him about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Another highlight is the story French producer Sebastian tells about a girl who broke up with him for not accepting her on Facebook. So 2016. Standout tracks are the brilliant, urgent Solo (Reprise), featuring Andre 3000, the gospel ballad Godspeed and Pink + White featuring Beyoncé. Kendrick Lamar also makes a notable feature on Skyline To. On the album’s final track, Futura Free, Frank declares, “I ain’t on your schedule/I ain’t on no schedule.” Yeah, we got that.
Aside from all of the incredible music, Frank then released a magazine called Boys Don’t Cry at pop up shops in Chicago, London, New York, and LA. The magazine includes a full list of “album contributors” (including David Bowie and The Beatles) and a poem I have read about 16 times now from Kanye West about McDonald’s French fries.
KANYE WROTE A RAP ABOUT MCDONALDS FOR FRANK'S MAGAZINE, IM DEAD pic.twitter.com/qdr2Ub2YNs— Jack Dudley (@duddersj) August 21, 2016
Seriously, I can’t stop. It’s amazing. Frank gave us so much and devouring it all this weekend was, ultimately, just a lot of FUN. When you think of an artist working on a single work for four years, the image of a holed up, dishevelled soul suffering for his craft might come to mind. According to Frank, that probably wasn’t the case.
“I had the time of my life making all of this. Thank you all. Especially those of you who never let me forget I had to finish. Which is basically every one of y’all. Haha. Love you.”
We love you too Frank. Even if you disappear on us again, it’s OK. Take your time.