K. When it comes to stanning, I really don't think there is any particular artist of my generation - not even King Bey (Beyoncé) herself - with whom I would say that I am utterly obsessed. In reality though? Ever since I stumbled upon the enigmatic sound of Odd Future member, Frank Ocean's Nostalgia Ultra mixtape back in 2011... my musical palette and some part of my inner core, have shifted.
For this young gent, I STAN. Unapologetically. And, I don't care who feels ways about it.
As some of you who follow me on social media may know, this past weekend, my posts were almost exclusively Frank Ocean alerts. Why? Because ever since dropping his Grammy award-winning debut album Channel Orange back in 2012, Christopher Francis Breaux (aka Frank Ocean) might as well have had his own stocks in milk cartons because dude basically went missing (à la Dave Chappelle) shortly thereafter.
Seriously: the memes were all but writing themselves since he went off the grid.
Fast-forward to 200 + weeks later, and he's finally come back to us, with anything but empty hands.
In the span of 48 hours, Frank quietly dropped a 45 minute visual album called Endless, a NSFW video called "Nikes", a full-length sophomore album called Blonde (or Blond, as the album artwork would suggest), AND limited edition print copies of an accompanying magazine called Boys Don't Cry. That's right. Four years later. Four projects. In 48 hours. And, I must say - now that I finally have these completed projects (minus the 'zine, arggh!) at my fingertips, I've almost entirely forgotten and forgiven the unbearable wait it took to get us here.
While the visuals for Endless were anti-climactic, the music itself was satisfying. I double dog dare you to listen to the opening "At Your Best" and not get the feels! The video for "Nikes" is... well, it's A LOT and it's definitely NOT for everyone - especially any sort of "phobic". And then there is the pièce de resistance that is Blonde - his sophomore album.
*Sidenote: in true 'stan' fashion, the minute I caught wind via IG that the album had officially dropped, I went straight to my iTunes and hit that BUY button without pre-listening to any track samples. "Just take all my money and give me my blessing, iTunes!", I said to myself.*
Let me just say that while Blonde is not a perfect album, neither was Channel Orange IMO. To me both of these albums had one or two tracks that seemed misplaced or that we could have done without (see "Monks" on Orange and Pretty Sweet" on Blonde). That said - I've listened to Blonde front to back three times now since getting my hands on it, and I'm feeling it. It almost don't want to say that I "enjoy" it because much of the content seems to deal with loss (of something, of someone, or of control). But I feel it. And that is the brilliance of Frank. His vocals, his arrangements, the ordering of his tracks, and even what seems to be non-logical lyrics... when combined, they always make you feel...
The top five standout tracks from Blonde (for me) are:
- Nights (which, as Awkward Black Girl star, Issa Rae, noticed - gives you complete Channel Orange "Pyramid" throwback vibery with its seamless two-part format.)
- Pink + White
- Solo Reprise (a track by none other than the ever-illusive André 3000 of Outkast)
( "Ivy" and "Self Control" are also very notable mentions!)
"Godspeed", from the very first note just leaves me... agasp. And I don't mean to be pretentious with my words here, at all. The song really does leave me a little emotionally exhausted in the purest of ways. At first listen, I believed it to be a love song to his 'one that got away'. And then , I thought it was more of a "permanent goodbye/send-off" for someone who had passed away. And finally, after reading an excerpt from Boys Don't Cry, I see that Frank explains that the song wasn't really about a person at all... It was actually dedicated to a part of his childhood. Needless to say, I'll now have to play the song another few times to get a deeper understanding. But the fact alone that this song can lend itself to various types of circumstances shows the mark of a genius.
I really could go on a tangent about the magnificent and organic being that is Frank Ocean, but I'd be doing you a disservice. You should really experience his music first-hand. He's just one of those artists who is natively mysterious or misunderstood. He can drop beautiful musical gems, fade away from the limelight and then re-emerge almost a half decade later, without pretense or any sort of dramatic personality overhaul.
He is who and what he is and he doesn't mind taking his time to figure that out before putting himself back into our fish bowl for dissection. Most of us are so quick to put ourselves on display, only to feel immediately offended and react with negativity when people perceive us incorrectly. Frank seems to give two shits about our perceptions of him, or our patience levels. And I applaud him for not giving us a piece of his mind until he was damn good and ready.
There's a quote that says: "Always be yourself unless you can be a unicorn. Then, be a unicorn." Well - friends, I'm pretty sure that Frank Ocean is both.
I had the unforgettable pleasure of seeing him perform live a few years back (and hope to do so again!). At his best, he is part unicorn, part Ocean. And at his worst... I can only imagine that he is still all beauty amidst his brokenness.