From the day Blonde was first announced until the day it was released, it seemed as if Frank Ocean didn’t actually exist.
The days, months and years spent in anticipation for Ocean’s sophomore effort were filled with false release dates, cryptic tweets and, for some unexplained reason, staircase construction. But when it was finally released, the floodgates opened. The second half of 2016 and most of 2017 has seen some of Frank Ocean’s most prolific output of his entire career. From visual albums to features elsewhere, 2017 has been a busy year for hip-hop’s biggest recluse.
August of 2017 marked the one-year anniversary of Frank Ocean’s second album, titled Blonde (or Blond depending on which version you obtained). Blonde is the product of a man who took his time. Every square inch of this record is jam packed with emotion, patience and raw musical talent. It is a nebulous, sprawling expanse of ideas, events, references to other music, and, above all, stories. The songs range from victorious and jubilant to intimate and heartbreaking. Tracks like “Self Control” are vignettes that supposedly happened in the time between Channel Orange and now. The album is, in my opinion, the capstone of Frank Ocean’s career, and, in the year since it was released, it has only grown stronger in the eyes of his fans. With each successive listen, this album reveals to you something new about Ocean’s life and songwriting process. Instead of parsing out information on the album’s progress and his life in a normal and steady fashion, Frank Ocean decided to let it all build up and release it in one go, creating a condensed, layered experience that is meant to be discovered in pieces that only reveal themselves after multiple listens, making this album the perfect experience to revisit over the course of a year. Blonde, in 2017, has only matured and grown since its release, and it will undoubtedly will continue to do so in the years to come.
As 2017 comes to a close, we have seen less of Frank Ocean, but his consistent updates to his Tumblr and appearances in other media have been more than enough to keep his fans held over until his next release. In a recent visual essay for i-D Magazine, Frank reflects on his year and considers what it’s like to be famous in 2017. He talks about pleasing others, feeling alone, and his podcast listening preferences. His absence in the past allowed him to have “peace in [his] twenties.” Ocean finishes the essay with a promise: “If you liked two thousand and seventeen then you’ll love two thousand and eighteen.”
Whether or not this statement is one of new music, political ideals, or even a promise at all remains to be seen. But, if it’s anything like 2017, I can’t wait to see what comes next.