Put away your pitchforks and blow torches. I’m not about to bag it. I’m just feeling a little conflicted. In 2012 Frank Ocean dropped Channel Orange and had me completely captivated. It was soulful, progressive and musically interesting (something we lack so much of these days). It would not be exaggerating to estimate that I have listened to the whole thing, start to finish, upwards of 100 times since its release. And I’m still not over it.
So imagine my anticipation when, after all the teasers and false alarms, we finally get two new album drops, in the space of two days: Blond and visual album Endless. Of course I couldn’t remember my Apple ID password. Devastating. Had to create a whole new account before I could listen. But that’s not the point.
Blond or Blonde (depending on who you ask) failed to grab my attention on the first listen. But that’s fair, hardly any album does. I’m a firm believer that any album deserves three full listens before passing judgment. I listened six times and still couldn’t seem to form any kind of emotional attachment. It felt more like ambient pop than music of the soul. Not unpleasant but not memorable and not expected.
Endless – the visual album – is visually unexciting. The black and white film set in a warehouse shows Ocean working away, building what appears to be a spiral staircase. This continues for the duration of the album with very few changes even to the camera angle. It feels arty but not at all integral to the album. Stylistically and vocally Endless is similar to Channel Orange. Featuring a very long and impressive list of ‘contributors’, there’s no denying that there are some pockets during the 45 minute album which provide the feels that a Frank Ocean album should – but you spend a long time waiting for them.
I realise change is important and experimentation is necessary for an artist to grow. I also realise Frank wasn’t thinking purely of me and my wishes in the process of creating his life’s work. I will also admit both albums have some great moments and are definitely worth a listen.
It’s really my own fault; I’ve come into the experience tainted. The truth is, when you come across an album you connect with in such a way that you would name your first born after it, no follow-up album – no matter how good – will ever compare.
To put it simply, if you felt the way I did about Channel Orange, you probably won’t like Blond or Endless very much. If you didn’t, you probably will. But that also means you also probably don’t have a heart beating in your chest or ears on the side of your head.