Frank Ocean impresses with highly-anticipated album, Blonde

In 2012, Frank Ocean made his debut with the album Channel Orange. Along with 17 soulful and emotional tracks came an eruption of praise and support from artists and critics alike. With an astonishing six Grammy nominations — including album of the year — and claims that his talent was akin to that of Stevie Wonder, it seemed as though Ocean would soon become a household name.

But then he disappeared for four years.

In the wake of disturbing events involving police shootings and with the unrest in the African American community, many musicians of color used their artistic influence to call for change — Kendrick Lamar wrote To Pimp a Butterfly angrily depicting the disadvantages of being a young black man in America, and in her self-titled album, Beyoncé empowered black women to stand up for themselves. Throughout all of this commotion, many expected Ocean to chime in — after all, such regard to impassioned and controversial topics was the focus of much of Channel Orange. His fans had every reason to anticipate new material.

But years went by and little was seen of or heard from the pop sensation. Until weeks ago.

On Aug. 20, Ocean finally released his sophomore album, Blonde, ending his silence. Ocean jumps right into the eye of the political storm that has been brewing for the last four years in the opening track of the album, “Nikes.” With lines such as, “R.I.P. Trayvon, that [boy] looked just like me,” Ocean sets the stage for an outpouring of emotion and insight that lives up to his debut album without replicating its ideas or style.

Ocean had nothing to prove when releasing Blonde, and the laid back production of the tracks illustrates that perfectly. While Channel Orange prided itself on the eclectic beats and complex composition, Blonde is all about the experiences he depicts through his impassioned lyrics and dark, atmospheric melodies.

Ocean doesn’t preach; he doesn’t call anyone out or call anyone to action with an abundance of political innuendos. Instead, he characterizes everyday life and the struggles that accompany it.

Blonde is about love, it’s about discovering sexuality, it’s about social media, it’s about battling with drugs, it’s about religion. It’s intimate, it’s transparent, and it’s shockingly honest.

The album ends with a spoken interview between Ocean and his brother, Ryan Breaux, in which, at the very end, he asks a question: “How far is a light year?” My answer to that question is “a while” and hopefully not how long we will have to wait for Ocean’s third album.