Urban School reacts to BLOND(E)

Emmy Hicks-Jablons, Editor-in-Chief of Visuals

For the past  four years, impatient Frank Ocean fans have flooded Twitter expressing their distress and confusion each time a rumored release date came and went with no sign of a record. Fans started to lose hope. Ocean had not produced any music since his hit album Channel Orange in 2012, which was listed number two on the Billboard 200 and contains the famous breakup song “Thinking Bout You”. In 2015, Frank Ocean posted a picture of magazines on his Tumblr labeled “Boys Don’t Cry”, accompanied with the hashtag, “#July2015” suggesting the new album release. A year later, the album was rumored to release again in July.

On August 19th, 2016, after the world began to question if Frank Ocean still existed, Endless dropped on Apple Music. Endless, a 45-minute-long visual album that covers 18 tracks, is a black and white video that features artists such as Jonny Greenwood and Jazmine Sullivan. Although Frank Ocean fans were relieved by this spontaneous visual album, it remained unclear what happened to the previously mentioned album: Boys Don’t Cry.

Two days after the release of Endless, Ocean released another album on Apple Music entitled “Blonde”—it is referred to as “Blond” on Ocean’s website—containing 17 new songs. After four years with no Frank Ocean, there were 35 new songs in the span of two days. In a survey of 65 Urban students sent out on September 13th 2016, 65 percent said they had listened to “Blonde”. Of those surveyed, the most popular song choice was “Nights” followed by “Ivy” and “Self-Control”. When asked rather they preferred “Channel Orange” or “Blonde”, the results were pretty evenly split: 52 to 48 percent.

Christopher Williams, Urban’s Admission Associate and Outreach Coordinator, said that the new album “Blonde” is “a different sound; so soft and lullaby-like.”

Eliza Gislason (‘17) said she “really like[s] how experimental the album is.” She said Ocean was “really intentional this time about what went into each song and how that contributed to the structure of the album. I’m also obsessed with the album cover.”

Not only is Frank Ocean admired for his music and his artistry, but also for the way he challenges gender norms. This can be noticed in subtle ways such as the title “Boys Don’t Cry”, but also more explicitly in his coming out letter in 2012, and the way his lyrics explore themes of bisexuality. In the “Boys Don’t Cry” magazine, Ocean writes of his obsession with cars; “Maybe it links to a deep subconscious straight boy fantasy. Consciously though, I don’t want straight—a little bent is good.”

Williams said that “Frank Ocean’s identity as a queer man of color also provides a narrative that is not heard in the world(s) of Hip-Hop/R&B. He finds ways to tell stories in his music that you don’t normally hear in the mainstream.”

Similarly, Gislason said, “Frank Ocean’s stuff is uniquely personal and I think that’s why people are so attracted to his music. That’s why everyone was so desperate for his new album. Every time he drops something it’s new and exciting and so specific to him. I can’t think of another artist like that.”