The Student News Site of Clemson University

The Tiger

The Tiger

The Tiger

“Blonde” and Frank Ocean’s battle with identity

Courtesy of Wikimedia

On Aug. 20, after numerous unexplained delays, it finally happened. Less than 24 hours after releasing his visual album “Endless” exclusively on Apple Music, Frank Ocean released “Blonde”, the proper follow up to his 2012 studio album “Channel Orange.” “Channel Orange” dropped the summer before I came to college. “Blonde” (long rumored to be called “Boys Don’t Cry”) finally arrived nearly four months after I earned my degree. A lot has changed in both music and in the world in the four years since “Channel Orange’s” release that summer.
The week before “Channel Orange” released Ocean published a letter on his personal Tumblr page telling the story of his first love at 19 years old and his unrequited feelings for another man. The letter was originally intended for the album’s liner notes, but was published in the wake of pre-released album listening events after several news outlets speculated on his sexuality. It was a bold and powerful statement, especially in a community that so outwardly rejected emotion and homosexuality like hip-hop did and still does. This emotional struggle informs all of Ocean’s music and four years later “Blonde” finds the singer looking both inward and backwards on who he is now and how he got there.
“Blonde” was worked on by dozens of people, but the spotlight is firmly pointed at Ocean himself. Beyoncé is pushed to the background on “Pink + White;” Kendrick Lamar says only a few words on “Skyline To;” Fellow recluse André 3000 stops by for his annual show stopping verse on “Solo (Reprise)” (where’s the album, Three Stacks?!). Jamie xx, Mike Dean, Pharrell and Rick Rubin all helped out on the production and you wouldn’t know it without a glance at the album credits. Drums are largely absent. Instead, Ocean uses strings and keys to create texture (“Ivy,” “White Ferrari”) and experimental arrangements (“Nikes,” “Self Control”) to hold your attention. This all culminates on album’s highlight “Solo,” (even the title is insular), a gorgeously stripped down organ track with a soaring chorus that is already among Ocean’s best and most exciting songs.
“Blonde” is darker and messier than the sunny “Channel Orange”, and the result is a heavier and more measured look into Ocean’s sexuality. Much has already been written about the blonde/blond dichotomy but the difference (intentional or not) highlights the battle with traditional masculinity that Ocean faces every day. “Blonde” is a beautifully enigmatic record that was worth every bit of the extended wait, but it’s also an essential work for the person that made it.
The morning of the album release, Ocean announced pop up shops in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and London where fans could get a copy of the new album and a magazine called “Boys Don’t Cry,” borrowing from the long rumored title of his new album. “Blonde” was released on Ocean’s new independent record label of the same name after the release of “Endless” the day before freed him from his contract with Def Jam. It feels a lot like Ocean is using the name to make a point; sometimes boys do cry and that’s OK.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Clemson University . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Tiger

Comments (0)

All The Tiger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *