First and foremost, it’s worth noting that I am not a Frank Ocean fan by any stretch of the imagination. When “Novacane” hit the charts in 2011, I was a 15-year-old cynic still very much entrenched in my adolescent alt-rock stage. No teen desires uncertainty. My obsession for distinct instrumentals and indubitable meanings overshadowed any appreciation for Ocean’s trademark ambivalent ambiance.
And yet, five years later, I crave that ambivalence, that “life immortality” Ocean sings of in tracks like “Pink + White” before firmly declaring, “I didn’t care to state the plain” in “White Ferrari.”
The entire album is a testament to that claim. “Blonde” is many things, and at first glance it
may even appear plain – but dig deeper and you’ll find a multitude of meanings and insight into an incredibly nuanced mind.
For example, there’s the color motif. In his track and album titles, Ocean talks in shades of white – white (blond) hair, white Ferraris and white mixed with pink. There are no certainties here; no vivid hues to stake absolutes. Instead, Ocean wants to explore the in-betweens, those broken down shades so ethereal and dreamlike that one hardly has the time to appreciate them before they disappear.
Indeed, Ocean spends much of the album dreaming – “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you loved me … I could dream all night,” he sings in “Ivy.” I don’t know who the “you” is, but Ocean’s pain and irreconcilable love are palpable throughout the entire album.
If there’s one thing the listener can be certain about, it’s that Ocean has suffered from many
a heartbreak in his time. No one depicts them as neatly and explicitly, but then again, most don’t feel them as intensely: “This love will keep us through blinding of the eyes, silence in the ears, darkness of the mind. It’s till it’s time we die,” he sings in “Godspeed,” my favorite song on the album. “There will be mountains you won’t move … still, I’ll always be there for you.”
“I wrote a story in the middle – It’s called ‘Godspeed,’” he wrote about the track in his “Boys Don’t Cry” publication, in a spread that was shared online shortly after the album’s release. “It’s basically a reimagined part of my boyhood. Boys do cry, but I don’t think I shed a tear for a good chunk of my teenage years. It’s surprisingly my favorite part of my life so far. Surprising, to me, because the current phase is what I was asking the cosmos for when I was a kid. Maybe that part had its rough stretches too, but in my rearview mirror it’s getting small enough to convince myself it was all good. And really though … it’s still all good.”
In short, Ocean is seeking the oldest, mundane magic known to mankind – positive thinking.
“In hell, there’s heaven … Inhale, inhale there’s heaven,” he sings in “Solo” before adding, “Mind over matter is magic. I do magic,” in “White Ferrari.”
If the constant allusions to sunrises are any indication, this is a new era in Ocean’s life. He is depicting a world bathed in the soft rays of early morning sunlight, a world where everything can be taken at face value and yet nothing ever is– a world resplendent in long sought-for, and much deserved magic.
Although “Blonde” is not currently available from most streaming services, it can be purchased and streamed