Frank Ocean: Blonde (Boys Don't Cry) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Frank Ocean

Blonde

Boys Don't Cry

Sep 16, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


"Pink + White," one of the standout tracks from Frank Ocean's latest album, Blonde, would have fit nicely on his last proper album, 2012's Channel Orange. Indeed, the song's gentle, soulful, and slightly jazzy instrumentation, along with the 28-year-old R&B star's breezy crooning, are all what Ocean's legions of fans have come to expect from him (the song was produced by Ocean himself; his Odd Future cohort Tyler, the Creator; and star beat maker Pharrell Williams).

However, much of the rest of Blonde is far less accessible than its predecessor. And that's not a bad thing. "Solo," for instance, might initially bore impatient listeners because it starts with a subtle instrumental and vocal buildup that both border on quiet a cappella, as Ocean sings about tripping on acid. But when it hits a gentle climax, Ocean belts out the chorus in remarkably cheery fashion. When he sings about a "bull and a matador duelling in the sky," it's pure bliss.

Opening track, "Nikes," pushes the limits even further, thanks to a vocal effect that renders Ocean's singing to an Alvin and the Chipmunks high pitch. The cuteness of that delivery is juxtaposed compellingly by Ocean's lyrical shout out to Trayvon Martin, the black teen famously slain by George Zimmerman in 2012 ("That nigga looked just like me," Ocean sings). 

"Skyline To," meanwhile, has a subtler, but no less effective Black Lives Matter reference in the opening line, as Ocean sings: "This is joy/this is summer/keep 'em high/stay alive," before lamenting about how time flies in his old agehe is an elderly 28 at this point, after allover warbly synths reminiscent of rippling heat waves in the distance. These elements and more prove that Ocean is one of today's boldest artists, not only in R&B but also in any genre. If casual fans looking for simpler, catchier grooves to vibe to don't get it, then so be it. Judging by the way that Ocean sings without abandon on Blonde, he's well aware of what his true fans need. (www.boysdontcry.co)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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