Review: Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond’ Ranked Track by Track

Frank Ocean’s second studio album, ‘Blond,’ was released on Aug. 20, 2016
The album features several collaberations with other musical artists.
The album features several collaberations with other musical artists.
Boys Don’t Cry

“Blond” is Frank Ocean’s second studio album, which was released one day after his previous project album “Endless,” which has quite a messy story. After signing to Def Jam Recordings, he was on a two-album contract. He had already released his first album, “Channel Orange,” so he only needed one more album to escape the controlling record label. He dropped a fluke album, “Endless,” on August 19, 2016, to get out of that two-album contract. The very next day, he released an album that Def Jam had no idea was in the works, “Blond.” “Blond” ended up being his absolute biggest hit, and he left Def Jam in the dust, creating his own label, Boys Don’t Cry. The album is very different from his previous works and features almost cryptic lyrics that sometimes feel like they are all over the place.

17. “Good Guy”

“Good Guy” is considered an interlude and explains Ocean’s struggles with encounters that went nowhere. It tells a story about a time when he realizes in the moment that the encounter he is having means nothing. It is only a minute and seven seconds long, so I feel like it has very little time to prove itself. Nevertheless, it delivers emotion, much like every single track on this album. In this song, it’s just  Ocean and a piano, giving a more empty feeling. If this song was longer, it would be higher on the list.

16. “Be Yourself” 

This track opens with a voicemail from Rosie Watson (the mother of Ocean’s childhood friend) telling him that addiction is something that clouds the mind and warns him not to get into drugs. I think this interlude serves a sort of comic relief in the album, which I haven’t seen in a lot of albums, but it’s also only an interlude and doesn’t have much music to it other than a synth that sounds like it’s playing from a mile away. 

15. “Pretty Sweet”

“Pretty Sweet” throws you into chaos right from the beginning, which scared me a little at first because of how unexpected it was. The lyrics lack a specific structure, which is what Ocean is going for. I love how the drums come in on this one, and how sudden everything is, but I do skip this one a lot because it’s hard to be in the right mood for the unsettling change of pace. 

14. “Solo (Reprise)”

In “Solo (Reprise),” Outkast’s André 3000 brings a unique flow to the album. The track only spans one minute and nineteen seconds, but the piano in the background feels almost as if it’s trying to stay caught up with him. Ocean isn’t on this track whatsoever, but uses André 3000 as a way to portray something they both share in common, success and fame in the music industry. André 3000 raps about how he feels dealing with fame and how he realizes the music industry can sometimes be twisted with people who get fame off of lyrics that aren’t even theirs. 

13. “Close to You”

This track eases in with a chopped-up sample from Stevie Wonder’s live rendition of “Close to You.” If you watch the video of Stevie Wonder’s version, you can see the emotion even in the talk show host, so I completely understand this sample’s uniqueness. The song brings up a past romantic relationship in Ocean’s life and how he feels there will always be some kind of tie to that person, whether it’s in memories or just a physical connection. It’s another one of those shorter songs, but it lives its life well and portrays a unique emotion and thought. 

12. “Pink + White”

“Pink + White” fades in suddenly with strings, which takes the song into a wide open space with drums, funky bass and piano. Ocean’s vocals on this song are angelic and echoey, as well as vocals that come later in the song from Beyoncé. Ocean remembers advice from someone in his childhood who passed away and recognizes them as a role model in this track. The song is produced by Pharell Williams, so it was destined for greatness from the beginning. 

11. “Facebook Story”

“Facebook Story” is an interlude that features Sebastien Alexandre Akchote (also known as SebastiAn), a French producer. SebastiAn tells a story about a girl he dated for three years. She asked him to follow her back on Facebook, but SebastiAn said no because it was just an app on his phone and he didn’t feel the need to. The girl tells him she’s breaking up with him after she accuses him of cheating, breaking a three-year-long relationship just because he didn’t want to follow her on Facebook, something completely virtual breaking something so real. The message of this interlude sticks out the most to me out of all of the interludes on this album. 

10. “Solo” 

This beautifully produced song begins abruptly with Ocean rapping, but the only other sound is an organ. Eventually, the song starts to show itself off more with odd sounds, one sounding like a police siren. It’s very bare but in such a good way. Ocean shows his flow almost like spoken word poetry, and the whole track is a great vocal performance for Ocean. He touches on a double entendre, the word solo. This can mean that Ocean is in a bad place in his life after a breakup, so now he has to be alone. It can also mean that he feels he needs drugs to feel better, feeling so low that he needs to get high. 

9. “White Ferrari”

“White Ferrari” is a heartbreaking track about the reflection of a dying and dead relationship. This is the absolute best vocal performance on this album, and Ocean proves how stunning this song is within the first thirty seconds. The description of emotion in this song leaves me feeling so low every single time I hear this song. 

8. “Nikes”

A story of duality, “Nikes” touches on how materialistic people are by using the term “Nikes.” A big theme in this song is the idea that Ocean is in control of his own music. The whole time he was making “Blonde,” people were hyping up the drop and trying to predict what it would be like. But, Ocean talks about how he is the only one really in control. While they are trying to predict the future, he is making the future. “Nikes” opens up with a pitched-up voice of Ocean. This is supposed to symbolize his younger self, which eventually gets layered with his normal voice, then drops and stays normal until the end of the song. This song is about the middle ground of the album in terms of production quality and vocal performance, so eighth is the best spot for it. 

7. “Self Control”

This track is an image of a failing relationship in which Ocean and his ex-partner must use their “Self Control” to keep apart because they know it’s for the best. In the song, they both lose their self-control, meaning they see each other again. Later in the song, he chants, “I know you got someone coming. You’re spitting game, know you got it.” Ocean knows there’s another person, so he can’t let his self-control slip again. This song is a beautiful vocal performance with very little instrumental, just a guitar and some bass. Ocean often strips his songs down to a few instruments, which makes them feel so much more raw and real, and I think this song is a perfect example of that. 

6. “Godspeed”

“Godspeed” says goodbye to a past lover in such a beautifully respectful way. The track opens with “I will always love you how I do, let go of a prayer for you.” Though Ocean has lost someone close to him and knows he needs to let go, he still knows he will always hold some regard for this person. 

5. “Ivy”

This track is a reflection of a failed relationship that Ocean had in his younger years. Ocean sings about the things he wishes would’ve happened, the things he wanted to do better. Ocean, in his reflection, realizes it wasn’t really a shared deep connection emotionally, and that the most intense feeling was shared sexually. Right at the end of the song, Ocean’s voice becomes distorted and layered and the guitar gets louder. The whole space feels filled with anger as Ocean screams the last words, “I’ve been dreamin’ of you, dreamin’ of you.” This reveals to us that Ocean is only reflecting on this relationship through or because of a dream. This song feels so strong, and it gives me feelings of anger and sadness in a way I have never felt through music before.

4. “Futura Free”

“Futura Free” is a look at Ocean’s life, which is told almost as if he is looking back on his life after his death. This song is sung in a very rambling way, jumping from topic to topic. The song starts with only a piano and a distorted synth, which eventually unfolds into a trap-like beat, although it’s slow at 83 beats per minute. The song seems as though it has ended with fifty seconds or so of silence, which eventually cuts into an audio clip of Ryan Breaux, Ocean’s brother. In the four-minute-long audio clip, Breaux is conducting interviews with some members of the skateboarding group Illegal Civilization (also know as Illegal Civ). The questions don’t seem to have much purpose or theme. The actual song part of this track made me think about some things I’ve never thought about before, but the second half of the track is interesting, and I wish I could understand the importance of it more than I do. This song could be higher, but I just don’t love the interview part. Even then, this song is still in fourth place. 

3. “Nights”

There is a lot of uniqueness in the song “Nights.” For starters, it’s five whole minutes of just plain beauty. This song is once again about a failed relationship, but also about Ocean’s relocation during Hurricane Katrina. The song starts with rap, a fuzzy bell-like synth and a fuzzy guitar. Towards the middle of the song, a new synth comes in and progresses the song towards a climax. Ocean comes in with beautifully layered vocals, “All my night, been ready for you all my night, been waiting on you all my night.” Another new synth comes in layered with guitar, and a new beat suddenly appears from out of nowhere. Ocean has completely changed the mood of the album. When the new beat comes in, it comes in exactly on the thirtieth minute of the hour-long album, splitting this album in half at the exact second, giving a day-and-night effect. This song is one of Ocean’s most-played songs of all time.

2. “Skyline To”

This track is very secluded, starting with echoey birds and soft guitar, but the main focus is Ocean’s voice with random and odd ad-libs scattered throughout the song. This is my favorite vocal performance from Ocean, especially the last two lines which fill the space with layered vocals in beautiful chords. “Skyline To” covers multiple topics, but mostly focuses on Ocean’s intimacy with men, which he felt he needed to keep secret. The secrecy shows in this song because he explains it almost cryptically. This song just feels nice and warm to me. It gives me that feeling of love and care that Ocean’s music gives me all the time. 

1. “Seigfried”

“Seigfried” is a beautiful, scattered collection of thoughts. This song doesn’t necessarily have a set structure. The instrumentals even feel scattered. Ocean uses almost random timing to start his verses, but it fits perfectly. Ocean sings about another failed relationship (very common with him as you’ve seen), but he doesn’t dwell on the subject for too long. Ocean moves to his issues with the American dream, saying he wishes he sometimes thinks it would be easier to just settle down and have a wife and children, but in response to his own questions about this he replies, “I’m not brave.” He talks about how he’s, “Living over city and taking in the homeless sometimes.” Ocean, in this comment, explores the idea of living homeless and how he thinks he would enjoy it. The background vocals get stronger, “This loop. The other side of the loop is a loop.” This is a point in the album where Ocean feels stuck. He has thought so much about the past that he feels he can’t escape it. Ocean also comments on his nonbelief in God, and his “why not” motto over life. The song ends with Ocean singing, “I’d do anything for you in the dark.” He repeats this phrase eight times in a row, so it almost feels like he’s begging for something. This song is such a fun ride, and it takes thought to decipher because of the lack of structure, which I think fits Ocean’s intention perfectly. This song’s instrumental is almost as random as the lyrics, but it somehow feels all connected and still sounds beautiful. Ocean’s talent leaves me baffled with this track. 

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