Review Summary: Crucible of worlds.
2016 was a shitty year. It was the worst year in the history of my life, possibly ever. Ever has insofar included 2017, so “ever” told me a pack of lies, and I find this ploy to be terribly droll. At best. Fucking bullshit. I was prepared for glory.
In October of 2016 I met up with my very good friend. In descending order, three people have given him money while he’s been incarcerated: his mother/sister (single entity, because no one’s fooled here), some meth-crazed whore (same), and yours truly. So this earned me some pretty decent HiFi over-the-ears that I definitely should’ve gotten the warranty on and Spotify Premium. I reciprocated with a sixer of Not Your Father’s Root Beer, some Natty Ice tall boys, and Peach Stoli. The evening’s sequence of events: Weed. Klonopin. Tract marks. “Wanna get some coke?” Bike ride. “That’s my moniker since 1999, what the fuck?” Marlboro Red Blacks. Legend of Nigga in Color. Rated X. This fucker.
I got arrested the next day. Ever. #yolo.
But briefly before ever’s bitchfit, I used those headphones to listen to Frank Ocean’s “Nikes” on Spotify on Extreme quality. Such extreme. Such quality. I don’t really like Odd Future outside of “EARL, ‘Home,’ and like half the shit Frank Ocean did.” It took precisely one minute and eleven seconds of “Nikes” for me to be thoroughly convinced he is a genius.
“If you need dick I gotchu, and a Yam from the line. Po’ up for A$AP, R-I-P Pimp C, R-I-P Trayvon- a nigga look just like me.”
It was in this moment I realized that even though I hadn’t ever seen it or lived it, these things specifically, the familiarity was startling. Shocking, but not quite. It’s evasive. That sort of thing that has been with you forever, but you’re only just now experiencing the first time. It’s one of the greatest parts of being human. To live. Frank Ocean’s greatest talent is his ability to not only live vicariously through other vehicles, he thrives as himself. Formidable in any guise, but utterly peerless under his own propulsion.
Blonde is a triumph for this sentiment. In the time since Channel Orange, Lonny Breaux has branched out, rocketing with deftly fine precision into the various comings and goings of pop music. His is a growth bridging worlds by way ghostwriting. Blonde serves to ground these worlds by reminding, gently, firmly, elegantly, sorrowfully, lamentably, that Frank Ocean is Frank Ocean- “so be secure with yourself.” But understand the things that you’ve been taught. Don’t become unconcerned.
Frank Ocean’s inclination towards stream of consciousness lyricism is allowed to flow freely on Blonde. This is bolstered significantly by his fully embracing his indifference to standard verse/hook/board/hook pop and RnB. Blonde is excessive, over-indulgent, and momentous, but it never collapses under its own momentousness. The co-mingling of musical and production styles and sampling, with what seems to always be perfectly timed guest appearances, serve to ground the grounded. Tonkas to China. Music that has JT during his GOOD half of 2013 throwing down his pen while loosening his tie that complements a dirty suit and hastily acquired fifth of rye gin. Suit and tie and daddy’s Post-Nam medicine shit, Post-Nam medicine shit.
Yet still, it’s not difficult for detractors to take potshots. Withering blights. “Pink + White” is the oft-maligned “playable” track, with more standardized songwriting. But this stark contrast to Blonde’s main idea isn’t really the damning rallying call of the album’s impotence some make it out to be. Rather it is beauty in simplicity. If Frank Ocean is a fault here, perhaps it’s for playing things a bit too close to the hip. Gorgeous plant, but perhaps a different pot would bring the best of it out in bloom?
Blonde’s second half is The Happily [?] Ever After I believe Frank Ocean began to conceptualized as he wrote “Pyramids.” It is overgrowth- sometimes to the point of entanglement, but lush fertility. Olive branches work their way through tangle wires of constricting vines. This is a forerunner performing foreparkour. The triple monswoonsong of “Siegfried,” “Godspeed,” and “Future Free” encapsulates the emotions (wails of the foremost), self-awareness (all of them; the album in totality, to be fair), and push the envelope until it’s better than sliced bread (lattermost). Chills on chills on chills. For anything alive with a conscious in attendance. A human conscious, true enough. In life immortality. That “no substitutions, exchanges, or refunds” trifecta comprise the rings at the center of the trunk, but light years measure time- not distance- even as Team Rocket blasts off yet again.
3:58-4:24 on “Nikes” is the chill for me, however. I had to replay it 13 times that first night. The familiarity was startling, because I had lived that- that exact scenario- before. And several others like it. Shocking like a steel kite in flight. But even with that shock, I was no more elucidated, as I realized there wasn’t a rose in the Devil’s garden or kid in Satan’s cabbage patch’s chance I could compose such a thing. Ever evasive dope shit.
That’s when I calmly put down my pen, took off my hat complementing ash-marked hoodie, and opened a beer with one of my best friends for the last time ever.