After countless delays, Frank Ocean has returned with his second full-length studio album, Blonde. Blonde is preceded by the 45-minute grayscale musical short film, “Endless”, which sees Ocean building a mysterious staircase. Both Blond and “Endless” are exclusively available for streaming on Apple Music through his new label, Boys Don’t Cry.

A still from Ocean’s musical short film, “Endless”.

Like any Frank Ocean project, Blonde contains lyrics and themes of unrequited love, pain, heartbreak, growth, and recovery. The album opens with “Nikes”, which is accompanied by an Apple Music-exclusive music video that pays tribute to Trayvon Martin, Pimp C, and A$AP Yams. Perhaps the most notable lyric of the opening track is “I’m not him, but I mean something to you”, a message regarding unrequited love, which is easily relatable by every listener.

The album features cameos from several A-list musicians, including Beyoncé, whose background vocals can be heard among the acoustic, bongo-style drums on the track “Pink + White”. Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 are also featured on the album, the latter of the two delivering arguably the best guest verse of his career on the track “Solo (Reprise)”.

The vivid imagery Ocean is known for is most prominent on the track “Seigfried”, on which he describes a lover with “markings on [their] surface” and “a speckled face”.

Blonde is Ocean’s most personal project to date, containing interludes that add to the feel of a candid R&B record. On the interlude “Be Yourself”, Ocean plays what seems to be a voicemail from his mother, on which she warns him of the dangers of drug use, claiming that marijuana makes one “sluggish, lazy, stupid, and unconcerned.”  On “White Ferrari”, Ocean opens up about a love lost, on which he tells them “I care for you still, and I will forever, that was was my part of the deal.”

Shortly after the release of the album, fans on social media theorized that the reason the album is listed as “Blonde” on Apple Music but stylized as “Blond” on the album cover is to allude to his sexual fluidity. In an open letter included in the liner notes of his previous album, channel Orange, Ocean indicates that most of the album’s songs are about a man he fell in love with at the age of 19.

Overall, Blonde is a solid record, worthy of listening to from beginning to end. It is an emotional journey which tugs at the listener’s heartstrings.

Check out the NSFW video for “Nikes” here

Rating: 5/5
Download Recommendations: Every single track