Frank Ocean is back in a confusing way.
On August 18, Ocean released a “visual album” called Endless. Then two days later he dropped the actual album Blond/e, in two versions. A digital one available on apple music and a physical copy in pop up shops. It is apparent to me that this is a problem. Endless isn’t a real album and the visual part of it is underwhelming. Having two versions of Blond/e is confusing and making me question which one he wants to be seen as the “real” album. Unless he wants both to be seen as the “real” album, which then just makes me wonder which of the three projects I should care about.
Endless is a 45-minute video of Frank building stairs. There is music, but then the Suicide Squad could have been considered a visual soundtrack. I see the golden standard of visual albums as Beyoncé’s Self-Titled and Lemonade. Two different formats that seem to me to be the best ways to sequence a visual album. The main qualification is that the music within the video is available outside of the video as a traditional album. Endless does not have that, every song is contained with the video, but not available to listen to outside of it as of yet. So let’s say you are commuting somewhere and you want to listen to a particular song from Endless. You have to know the time in the video where the song starts. It’s cumbersome and unnecessary. Then we come to my other problem, the visual part. Self-Titled and Lemonade have multiple locations and themes, Endless is stagnant and static in comparison. That would not be a problem if only there was more than just the building of a staircase.
Then comes Blond/e, I have to do that because no one knows which name is the right one. The tracklisting for the two only share 10 songs. The digital album has 17 songs, while the physical has 12. What seems strange to me is that the two “bonus” tracks on the physical version could've just been added to the normal tracklist to make it 19 songs. The people who got the physical version don’t have all of the songs which seems strange that the people who would most want all the tracks have to get the 7 other songs from apple. The biggest Frank Ocean fans got the least amount of new Frank Ocean music. But hey, at least they got a poem about McDonald's.
This all adds up to an apparent confusion about what is worth listening to. Is Endless just some b-sides Frank wanted to put out there - is it worth listening to? Do I need to search out a physical copy of Blond/e or a rip of it? Is the digital one good enough? I don’t know. We’ll see how it turns out. I wouldn’t be surprised if Endless is just shelved until there is another long wait for more Frank music. This devalues the music for me. If Frank had let it come out and exist for six months and then put out Blond/e I would feel totally different. It seems like he is just deflating any meaning Endless had by releasing Blond/e two days later.
As to the version of Blond/e I have heard, it seems well-made. I’m hoping it grows on me, because it does not seem as immediately enjoyable as Channel Orange. There isn’t a song like “Pyramids” or “Thinkin ‘Bout You.” The lack of a dead ringer hit obstructs an otherwise consistent album.
Frank Ocean is back in a confusing way. With the release of Endless and Blond/e Frank finally delivered some new music. Though it seems that the releases themselves devalue the art of the other.
by Addison Garry (@addisonagarry)