After four years of very little communication with the media or his fans, Frank Ocean decided to release 4 pieces of art within the course of one weekend. The first of which was the visual album Endless. Then, the video for “Nikes” popped up, which ended up being the opening song on his third release of the weekend, Blond(e). Finally, on a very limited release, only available through pop-up shops, he released his Boys Don’t Cry magazine.
Now, to fully comprehend what it all means is most likely 100% impossible. Frank Ocean’s most recent works are not only many, but are all very dense as well. Below are just a few of my thoughts.
The visual album Endless is Frank Ocean’s comment on fame. The concept is simple. Three separate videos of Frank Ocean are superimposed onto one screen. The process is sped up. Frank slowly builds a staircase from the ground up. He cuts the wood, assembles, and layers the stairs. The finished project is jagged looking, almost decrepit.
The album title Endless is a direct comment on fame, technology, and what it takes to be an artist. Songs like “Device Control” have explicit lines about how the world that we live in is consumed by technology. Combine that with celebrity, and the pressures mount. ‘When’s the album coming, Frank?’ ‘He isn’t a true musician.’ ‘He’s just doing it for the money.’ All music sites over the last four years have contemplated where Frank’s next step would take hold, and each one has speculated, negatively mostly, that Frank was not actually Frank, but a mirage of insecurity and dull artistry.
With Endless, Frank battles this by providing a full length music release paired with the image of creation. However, interestingly enough, 35 minutes into the album, before the music is even finished, the visual Frank finishes his staircase. The music continues, yet the film restarts from the beginning. Frank is stating intricately that even if he released music continuously, the fans, media, and even the concept of fame would consistently want more. To put it simply, the pressure is endless.
The second release of the weekend was a video for the opening track of his album Blond(e) (to be released in full the following weekend).The song is “Nikes”. The concept is simple. With absurdist imagery, it is almost Lynchian in its quality. The images consist of visuals with very little context. There are eerie images of devils in churches, sensual images of naked women, and powerful images of famous figures holding pictures of dead celebrities and tragedies.
The “Nikes” video is an amalgamation of the confusion, addiction, and struggles that Frank Ocean has been enveloped in over the past 4 years. The imagery edifies the problematic aspects of his work, and is included to show what really goes on in Frank’s mind.
The third release of the weekend is Frank’s opus. It is a 17-track masterpiece with a few consistent themes. The first of which is Frank’s struggle with his own identity. He is a black, bi-sexual male within a genre that is predominantly chauvinist and consistently derogatory to gay people. Lots of R n’ B and hip hop artists use insensitive words within their songs, and Frank has constantly struggled with the fact that he can’t truly be himself within his music.
On this album, Frank finally comes to terms with who he is and fights against his lost youth, lost love, and regrets, all due to his former denial of his sexuality.
The second piece of the album has a lot to do with unrequited love. This theme builds off of the first theme of hiding parts of yourself, and the unrequited love happens when people cannot and do not accept Frank on his own terms.
The fourth and most elusive release is the magazine Boys Don’t Cry. The magazine is elusive and is currently being delayed, with only a limited release within pop-up shops in a limited run of cities.
This is possibly a comment on the state of album release schedules. However, that may mostly be speculation. Most likely, the magazine is a simple thank you, a kind of rolling credits for all of his friends, producers, associates, and any others that helped him work over the years.
The above analysis (read: speculation) is only really a first description of what may be going on within Frank’s art and his mind. In all honesty, any deeper analysis would probably take thousands of words, or even pages.