Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m well aware that this is something that doesn’t necessarily need to be stated, but I’m just reiterating a point. I’m not going to argue and bitch and get mad over someone’s opinion because they felt different about it, but if it’s just something ignorant without giving it a fair shot, then that’s the only thing I’d have a problem with, but I’m not about to turn this into some sort of emotional rant, because that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to give this album a fair review; so if you’ll indulge me, I shall commence.
Now, I can understand why people will either love this album or hate it: It’s not the same Frank Ocean that we were introduced to in ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ and listened to methodically on ‘The Lonny Breaux Collection,’ even though a majority of those songs were demos and nothing official. Besides the point, but yes, a lot of people (including myself) had expectations for it to be amazing. People love to overhype things then fail to realize in the changed music world that we live in. There hasn’t been a “classic” hip hop/rap or R&B album in quite some time, but then again, people have supporters (crazy ones for many) that will tell me otherwise. I digress, this is a great album. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ll explain to you why.
Shout out to the Playstation sound effect. I know for a fact that a lot of people felt nostalgic about hearing that start-up sound, and were instantly pushed back to some good childhood moments.
2. Thinking Bout You
The album dives right into one of my favourite songs from Frank Ocean that was released a few months back. Due to the recent announcement that Frank is Bisexual, a lot (80%) of his songs were going to be scrutinized as to who his songs are directed to (although in a couple of songs, they’re pretty much right there in your face). This is like writing in a diary to a past lover and points of reflection. There are many lines that a lot of people could catch and relate to like bringing up times that were spent together and enjoying each other’s company. In one line, I think it cleared up what he was talking about:
“I remember, how could I forget how you feel
you know you were my first time, a new feel
It won’t ever get old not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive
we’ll go down this road till it turns from color to black & white”
This could possibly relate to his first male lover when he opened up about his bisexuality (which everyone should read his letter, it’s quite touching) and pretty much how his partner (at the time) felt and that he couldn’t forget it because it was so scarring. There’s a theme on this album that revolves around lost love and missed opportunities at sorts, at least that’s what I took from it. This is someone that Frank’s been thinking about for a long time and it doesn’t look like that’s going to end soon; a beautiful song that can be useful for so many people in various contexts.
Remember in Nostalgia, Ultra when Frank had a bunch of intervals (not necessarily interludes) that related to that mixtape? Well that continued, and this one is him basically flipping the channels and he stops on this commercial that plays this “fertilizer” jingle. It’s pretty cool when you think of the concept of the album. Fertilizer is what’s used on the ground to create new grass grow. In the jingle lyrics, Frank sings, “I’ll take the bullshit, if that’s all you got,” basically saying, he’ll just grow over it and cover it up, or sinks into the Earth (in this case, the Earth being him).
4. Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a country in Africa that was made famous buy it’s infamous ‘Conflict Diamonds’ atrocities that were once highlighted by the great Kanye West in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and portrayed in the movie ‘Blood Diamond.’ This song is short, but when you study the lyrics a bit, it breaks it down into 3 things. A couple of teenagers having sex, girl gets pregnant, brings a baby into the world, but it also uses the imagery of a diamond by using the key words, ‘glistening’ and ‘shimmering underneath the sunlight.’ It’s quite poetic, but people will view it as basic. He’s in the perspective of a diamond, and diamonds are made in Sierra Leone. Also, the girl having this child could be named….Sierra Leone. Just it just tickles your brain a bit.
5. Sweet Life
I love this song, mainly because it’s a summery song, it has a jazzy feel, and Pharrell Williams did his thing by helping create this song. I want to think that this is pretty much a continuation from Sierra Leone, it being the girl who grew up. Let’s call her the Diamond girl, because she’s the privileged one. Frank Ocean describe the scenery of what appears to be California: Palm trees, sunny skies, blue water, and he uses the words ‘domesticated paradise’ to highlight that it isn’t an island, but in an actual city. He says “why see the world, when you’ve got the beach,” because he’s saying that it doesn’t get much better than what you have here, so why leave (which is a damn good question when you think about it)? As time goes on, the world changes, you think to yourself that this was everything you wanted, but people around you change and it’s out of your control. It works for more than just the imagery of the song, but perhaps he’s talking about his own personal life within the industry, but who knows, I’m just writing.
6. Not Just Money (Interlude)
Not exactly sure where the excerpt of this audio clip came from, but it involves a woman speaking freely while driving and talking about how having money means nothing, because it’s more than just having money, but being happy with it or not. It’s a problem that many people have. They say money can’t buy happiness, and I think this woman pretty much summed it up by saying that’s not just about money, it’s about your mental state of mind that comes with it. Makes sense to me.
7. Super Rich Kids (Featuring Earl Sweatshirt)
I’m pretty sure a lot of people forgot that Frank Ocean is a member of Odd Future, so they saw this name and were like “HUH?” but, they eventually got it. Keeping with the theme of money from the interlude from prior, this song lets us hear Frank & Earl from the perspectives of a couple of kids who have a lot of money, spoiled, but seem depressed with their lives. Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems, thank you, Biggie. At first when I heard this song, I was like, this is just monotone, lazy and sounds boring, but as I think about it now, it’s about kids who are rich but don’t know what it’s really like to have a good childhood because they have access to rich stuff, and that’s all they know. That’s what they feel is supposed to happen when they have a lot of money. Best lines to describe the thought process of Frank Ocean in this song:
“Too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce
too many bowls of that green (weed) no lucky charms
the maids come around too much
Parents ain’t around enough…”
This is a depressed kid, which is about it. He wants love, he’s lonely, and he’s drowning his sorrows with expensive things and drugs. Sounds like rich kid syndrome to me. He says it too, he’s searching for real love, word to Mary J. Blige.
Earl’s verse (which he tweeted that he was high & sick when recording, that’s why it sounded so…not him) goes into the mind another kid that monotonously explains some interesting destructive adventures with the rest of his rich kid “friends.” Overall, money doesn’t equate happiness, and it explains that in this song. Good song after hearing it more.
8. Pilot Talk
Pilots fly planes; smoking weed gets you high so you feel like you’re flying. This isn’t hard to understand, people. Many rappers and singers often use the imagery that drugs are women (Mary Jane, and other female names to various drugs) so there’s no surprise that the drug is his pilot taking him high, and taking him down (coming off his high). This, like many songs, is a short one as well. Would have loved to hear more of it, but I’ll make do with what I have.
9. Crack Rock
Everyone loves a crackhead; okay, not really, but everyone loved Pookie in New Jack City & Tyrone Biggums from The Chappelle Show, so there are exceptions. This is a song about those individuals, but it’s also a blend of illusion & imagery within the song, often using crack & glass for juxtaposition. Example:
“Hitting stones in glass homes
smoking stones in abandoned homes
you hit them stones and broke your home…”
The consequences of smoking crack it seems. I wouldn’t know, I don’t do the stuff, but you get what I’m saying. The song is Frank as a narrator talking about a woman who has been claimed victim to the crack drug. She’s begging for some, going by any means to get what she wants, but she just ends up dying for what she’s addicted to, which is more common in society than what people think about. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album.
The main event of this album; 9 minutes long, but it’s really two songs blended into one with one theme – a pyramid. 1st half of the song is set in the Egyptian period with Cleopatra, and she’s been stolen from the Pharaoh by someone and she’s running away with him (flashes back to ‘Remember The Time’ video by Michael Jackson…ahh yes), but she gets caught and she ends up being found with another man, Samson (OOOOOUUUUUUU the plot thickens *grabs popcorn*). So, the heart broken Pharaoh says “oh, okay, TO THE TOMB,” and so meets the end of our Cleopatra. When you mess up, there are consequences, and back then, they were much harsher than what they are now. That’s the end of Act 1. As far as Act 2 is concerned, the tempo changes and the mood changes as well, and Frank is the man (pimp) with a woman in a motel and turns out that she’s a stripper that goes by the name of Cleopatra and she works at a club called *drum roll please* The Pyramid. How creative, sir; how creative. A stripper’s gotta do what a stripper’s gotta do. She makes money for a pimp that’s living with expensive things, but a broke lifestyle (more contrasts and paradoxes). Cleopatra is seen as a powerful woman, but her vulnerabilities are exposed because of the weakness with men. That’s pretty deep when you think about it. Long, but you get the point when you listen to it a couple of times.
Sort of like a continuation from Pyramids, Frank is a guy who basically wants to come and save this girl from her struggles and treats her better than her current boss and shower her with love, but that comes with a cost. She has to work for what she’ll be rewarded. She doesn’t know that she’s in the kitchen making dope that will be eventually sold to her family (oh those tricky business men). A lot of these songs are about women in the struggle who fall victim to the drug game or the harsh reality of selling themselves out. Deep stuff, Mr. Ocean
*in my best Barry White impersonation* We’re going to slow it down and really put you in the mood with this 1 minute rendition being played by Tyler on the keys & John Mayer on the guitar. I hate that this is so short, but that’s the common theme of this album, sadly.
I love this song as well. It’s a party/jazzy feel to it, but it still conveys a theme and overall enjoyable listen. 2 women in two different locations & civilizations: 1 Western, 1 Asian (Hindu to be exact). The song focuses more on the 2nd woman because it’s a different culture and she wants to run away with her boyfriend to experience a new lifestyle somewhere else. The couple gets away, but now they’re lost, but they have each other to depend on to get where they need to be as they come off of their cocaine high. Young love all over the place.
14. Bad Religion
This is the song that made a lot of people (mainly straight men) uneasy; me, not so much, because I’m comfortable with whom I am, and I hear music with a message. It doesn’t hinder my views to a singer whatever his sexuality is, so let’s dive into this. I’m sure many people can relate to having an emotional night (or morning) and all you want to do is vent to someone. Something like this happens every day: you’re upset, you get in the back of a cab, and you just want to go anywhere to get away from your problems, and the nearest person to you, you just want them to hear you out. Well, this is one of those songs. Frank is opening up his feelings that he was in love with another man and he doesn’t know why he can’t get him to love him, and pretty much, he’s just confused. I’ve never heard a song (or never been old enough to understand a song) that has an openly bisexual (or homosexual) R&B artist sing about feelings for the same sex. Never in my life, so this was something new, and it’s really gripping because if you read his letter of coming out and his experience with having to deal with neglect from his past lover, it hurts. So you can feel some of the pain in this song as you feel like you’re in the cab with him just hearing this story come out from him. He doesn’t feel like he can tell anyone but this taxi driver (who is Muslim, by the way) about this story because he doesn’t trust anyone. This line caught me the most, because it relates to anyone, whether you’re straight or not:
“It’s a bad religion to be in love with someone who can’t love you…”
This song is more than just him talking about his love for another man; I believe that it opens the door for many people to connect in a way like no one has before when it comes to being open about their sexuality and having no one to talk to about it; seems like they have a song to relate to. I respect Frank Ocean immensely for this particular record, because he wasn’t scared to put in on a song; that takes a lot…A LOT, of courage.
15. Pink Matter (Featuring Andre 3000)
Matter is a scientific term to describe objects of some sort (I didn’t look at the dictionary, so I just freestyled the explanation). We’re familiar with the term, “mind over matter,” so basically, Matter is anything that can be touched, felt, seen, heard….an object or living thing of some sort. In this song, there are 3 references to matter using colours: Grey for brain, Pink for vagina & Purple for space. Just to help you out if you were wondering. I’m glad to hear Andre 3000 on songs and not in commercials as him dressed as a Viking (let’s be real here). He provided a solid verse about being the guy that’s not trying to be involved, but something always happens. We’ve all been that guy, so it was straight (no pun). One of my favourite songs on the album as well.
16. Forrest Gump
It sucks because now, this great movie is going to have a little asterisk beside it when the new generation refers to it; a song about a man professing his love for another man. Again, I’m not uncomfortable with it, because as I sit and listen to it, I feel like he’s singing in the perspective of a woman, but that’s just me, because if you think of the scene in Forrest Gump when he ran out of the stadium, it makes sense, but then for Frank Ocean, there was a man on his mind, so it could relate to that to. Either way, it’s still a good song just to cap off his “coming out.”
The album ends with a song of his being played in a car or something like that, and inaudibly, we hear two people talking, and it’s kind of misty as if they’re both high and it’s some sort of trance that’s happening; he gets out, walks inside of his house, and turns off the TV.
I like this album a lot because, okay, I get it, it’s not the Frank of old that we grew to love, but at the same time, given the new circumstances and whatnot, this album is kind of groundbreaking for the new society we live in now. He’s a “high” profile name and him coming out was a big deal, and it touched a lot of people. He just wanted his music to do the talking and he did. The themes used in this album touched on societal issues dealing with women, drugs, rich kids, more drugs, and sexuality. I liked the album, I agree on what it stands for, and the effects it’ll have on music for the time coming. I’m glad I’ll be purchasing the CD when it comes out (no pun). Enjoy this album, and don’t let the opinions of others deter you away from a good listening experience.
But, for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX