Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Album Review: Frank Ocean- Blonde

Frank Ocean
*and1/2 out of *****

(Editors Note: We here at RtBE normally don't cover mainstream pop, but with the year in review coming soon, we wanted to dig into some of the more critically acclaimed pop albums of 2016. So welcome to Pop Week on RtBE.)

If you a major or minor recording artist these days you need some sort of hook to get noticed, so after years of waiting Frank Ocean finally came out with a magazine, pop up stores, a visual album and Blonde the proper follow up to the critically acclaimed channel Orange. However, whether it was expectations or mounting pressure to release an album Blonde sounds half baked, in line with another much publicized release this year.

Throughout the disk, songs feel under produced, trailing off midway, injecting new ideas only to have them drift off or flow into the next track with no energy. There is almost zero drums present, and rhythm seems to be an after thought, so does melody actually. While Kanye West can be blamed for the move to remove drums from R&B and hip hop recently, Blonde seems to take it to an extreme, using monotone and auto-tune instead of singing or rhyming.

"Nikes" feels jumbled as in the moment heartfelt reactions like "RIP Trayvon, That nigga look just like me" are convoluted next to shout outs and over-voiced nothings all trying to turn the light on commercialism. Playing like a demo tape, pianos dominate "Pink + White" as the mood is somber with Beyonce providing backup ooh-and-aah's. From here the tracks get shorter further enforcing the unfinished feel to things. Five of the remaining tracks are just over a minute, as if Ocean really didn't know where to go, and the popping up of Andre 3000 is the most lively minute on the disk.

"Ivy" is his most complete and questioning track, dealing with getting down, hooking up and being nervous about the whole concept. The breakup effort of "Self Control" can also open up Ocean's world to his pain about failed relationships. Those are the few highlights where other numbers like the stringed out and over done "Pretty Sweet" thankfully bury his words and "Skyline To" feels half-assed all around.

Throughout the full album, it is difficult to shake the "There has to be something more here right?" feeling, but there really isn't. There are no standout tracks, few worth remembering and even less that seem to mean a whole hell of a lot, will any of these songs have any shelf life into the new year? Or next month?

Rambling from one lazy track to the next Ocean has hopefully reached the pinnacle of the "less in more" vibe contaminating hip-hop and R&B in 2016, but that is doubtful as people seem to eat it up. I'll pass.
While RtBE wasn't a fan, you should support the artist, buy the album and peep some video:

Frank Ocean - 'Nikes' from DoBeDo Productions on Vimeo.

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