Five Years Later, Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” Remains As Sharp and Innovative As Ever


Brooks Coleman

Although authentic “Blonde” vinyl records are very rare, there are several bootleg copies you can buy at Music Millennium on Burnside.

Brooks Coleman, Staff Reporter

Ever since its 2016 release, Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” has seen its fair share of praise. Rolling Stone named it the 12th-best album of the 2010s. Pitchfork went as far as to name it the best album of the 2010s. The Guardian gave it a rare five-star rating, calling it “one of the most intriguing and contrary records ever made.” But after five years, does it still hold that same luster and appeal?

In short, yes.

Ocean has been largely off the grid since the release of “Blonde.” He’s had the occasional feature or one-off single, but a lot of people don’t know who Ocean actually is as a person. His extremely private personal life has made him an enigmatic and mysterious figure in the music industry, and that sense of mystery hovers around this album as well.

The mystifying nature of Ocean has made “Blonde” infinitely more re-listenable. I find myself continually compelled to revisit “Blonde” because I discover new things about the album every time I listen to it, such as the little audio bursts on “White Ferrari” or Beyoncé’s background vocals on “Pink+White.” That cloud of mystery that swirls around the album makes it very enticing to come back to and continue to try and understand everything the record has to offer.

Although it’s thematically complex, another thing that allows “Blonde” to stand the test of time is its relatability. Ocean taps into so many basic human emotions and experiences throughout the record, from falling in love to experiencing a breakup. There is truly something for everyone to relate to on this album, and can help younger audiences and future generations find something for themselves as they listen.

And finally, this album was way ahead of its time as far as the way it sounds. Even today, it sounds like it was produced 50 years in the future — especially in its more experimental second half. Songs like “Siegfried” and “White Ferrari” create a chilling yet welcoming ambience, and still manage to have that futuristic feel. Songs like “Nikes,” “Futura Free,” and “Skyline To” evoke a deep sense of nostalgia in the listener, despite their forward-thinking atmospheres.

Following the wildly successful “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean was unafraid to take risks. “Blonde” saw Ocean at his most fearless, creating a sound different from anything we’d heard before or since. It flows between genres and production styles, moving from acoustic to electronic almost seamlessly, and oftentimes uses both at the same time. Ocean’s voice perfectly fits his instrumentals, creating a listen that is both thematically complicated and easy on the ears.

That uniqueness is what will allow “Blonde” to stay relevant — whether it’s five or 50 years in the future.