Frank Ocean – Endless – The STiXXclusive Review

Four score & a million years ago (because that’s really how long it felt), there once lived a man named Christopher Lonny Breaux. This man, Christopher, also goes by the name of Frank Ocean. Christopher was affiliated with the collective, Odd Future, and that’s where he caught the interest of people all over with his breakout debut, Nostalgia/ultra in 2011. In 2012, Christopher released his debut LP, channel ORANGE. Since then we had not heard from him except on very rare occasions. After teasing people with a Tumblr post of a photo holding two magazines saying that he had 2 versions with July 2015 hashtagged with it, excitement brewed – no album came. Hope was lost, faith was dwindled, and people (quite a few) decided to move on, but were still hurt by being kawalled, hoodwinked, swindled, etc. When he made an appearance on Kanye West’s Wolves with a few bars, that excitement shot up again, and there was hope that he would resurface musically and deliver the goods like he promised. Still, we waited. Seeing pictures of him all over but no music to accompany them. It was a miserable state of being, but then in August of this here 2016, something happened that would change the landscape of where we would be right now. He started building. An Apple Music logo at the top right-hand corner, and an open warehouse full of carpentry tools, he was building something; what that something was, no one knew. He’s a very confusing individual, that Christopher, but regardless, at least there was something. After continuing to build, and after time passed, into the darkest night into the wee hours of a Tuesday, it went up. New music. From Christopher Lonny Breaux. This was what we were all waiting for those long and excruciating 4 years. It was finally here.

After waiting 4 years for music, and being that Frank Ocean left such a strong impression with his music prior to his hiatus, top notch quality is the only thing to expect from him, given that he works with great producers and is one of the strongest songwriters out (ask one of your favourites and they’ll vouch). That may prove to be detrimental for the fans, because you don’t want to force yourself to like something because it’s been so long since you got music from him and to overhype it in such a short period of time, you’d be doing the music a disservice before taking in what’s really being presented. How Endless starts off is futuristic in a sense where Device Control describes an Apple iPhone as an appliance, which would insinuate that smartphones are necessities like a fridge, microwave, or home oven (and there’s some truth to that). With that brief intro, in comes the vocals with Frank’s cover of The Isley Brother’s At Your Best (You Are Love). Or depending on which generation you come from, you may just say the Aaliyah version (which is the better of the two if you were to ask me). This actually came out previously in 2015, and that was the first taste (read: tease) of Frank’s emergence from exodus. It’s a beautiful song through and through, and certainly Frank did it justice. He won’t give you Gospel range with epic runs, because he certainly isn’t the best singer out, but the mood that his version brought to the table, it was soothing and expressed in a way that I’d imagine Frank to present it. I’m not sure how the R&B purists feel about his cover, but I was digging it when it first came out, and digging it now.

Alabama/Mine is where we hear Frank takes us back to his adolescent years in a brief (as you’ll get to understand that most of the songs on this are) admission to him jotting down the thoughts that he would later share as a whole revealing much about his personality and his overall state of mind to get a grasp on how he coped with the pressures of coming out. He has a great way in planting imagery in your head to immerse yourself into his world, and it’s pretty damn vibrant, whereas I think this time around, it’ll reflect the Black/White of the video itself. Neutral, but still expressive in his own creative right.

“What could I do to know you better than I do now?
What can I do to love you more than I do now?”

“How come the ecstasy always depresses me so?”

I can say that U-N-I-T-Y is likely one of the best songs on this, because in case you forgot that Frank had the ability to spit some bars, sheeeeeit, revisit Oldies or even his verse on Sunday with Earl Sweatshirt – the boy can spit a little bit; he flexes on this one here and I was impressed by his flow first off, before I was able to get into the lyrics and break them down. The way in which he was stringing the lines together as playful as they were, it was dope to see his ascension in skill when it came to rapping, since it’s not his first strength. Male R&B artists aren’t ones to shy away from dabbling in some bars here and there (Usher, Trey Songz, Chris Brown), but it shouldn’t be the primary focus, which Frank doesn’t do, but when he does and his focus is sharp, he’s able to put together songs like this and the beat certainly complimented what he was going for. Shoutout to Queen Latifah for drawing out the inspiration, but in the grand scheme, the mental state of Frank Ocean places him in a proverbial box within his own thoughts that questions trusting others in your circle and letting go of past friendships/relationships that broke down and drifted away.

“Are you slowin’ down? Are you holdin’ down?
Whoever held you down
Whoever propped you up
Built the structures with you
Swished the buckets with ya
Who was fuckin’ with ya?
Really brothers when you needed that?”

But in that same light, he looks forward to his progression. It’s hard to move on, but it’s how life goes and it’s necessary to do so. Going into Comme Des Garçons, I know that many people (particularly Straight Men) still have a hard time dealing with Frank’s bisexuality, but the truth is that he is what he is, and his orientation shouldn’t dissuade you from enjoying his music. If it’s that simple to do so, then that’s a personal problem. No one is saying that you must be tolerant of lifestyles that you don’t necessarily agree with, but I mean if you grew up listening to R&B, and certainly if you listened to Female R&B, and you know the words to many of those songs where 9 times out of 10 they’re sung to men, then you shouldn’t have an issue. That’s all I’ll say with regards to that, but this song is just an example where he professes his liking of the boys (whom he’s calling on in the title), but again – it isn’t that deep to have to cleanse your eyes & ears. You’ll survive. I wasn’t too intrigued by the song as a whole, mainly because it was just there to me and served as like an interlude of sorts. This album thus far is very experimental and maybe these are just throwaway demos that just landed on an album just because. Who knows?

I do enjoy how the album does transition together because although the sounds maybe not cohesively blend as a whole, they’re all connected in a way that makes the album flow well. Wither is a beautiful song that takes his ever-loving style of connecting Nature & Love as one to tell a personal story (Nature Feels, Swim Good, Strawberry Swing to name a few).

“Girl tonight I hold you close, close enough to prove
Hope a garden grows where we dance this afternoon
Hope our children walk by spring and flowers bloom
Hope they’ll get to see my color
Know that I’ve enjoyed sunshine
Pray they’ll get to see me, me wither”

The main reason why I had to take a bit of an absence from Endless before writing the review, is because honestly got in my feelings (corny, I’m aware), but this song in particular is one that hits you when you just want to say to the person you’re with (or in the pursuit of) that you just need to love me, damn it. I’m pretty sure for my wedding, my vows will be pieced together by various songs to profess my undying love for that person I happen to decide to share my life with. This is certainly something along the lines of dedicating a life to someone and hoping to plant the seeds, grow, and wither for however long that may be. Life is truly like a flower (or whatever plant you can think of), and it’s the basic of what many people are looking for when you do want love – growth, harmony, unity & some peace. 

Hublots takes that theme of wanting that love and plays it into waiting for that time to come (Hublot is a watch brand), and while you’re at home or out trying to find that love, it’s a waiting game and requires a great deal of patience that’ll overflow with these feelings of emptiness. There’s really someone out there for everyone, and this album has been serving me constant reminders that you shouldn’t give up hope for the one you want, because you either haven’t found it yet, or you just have some work to do on yourself before someone else can emit that energy to see them. This leads you in In Here Somewhere that is an instrumental tidbit that again serves as a string to pull you to a newer chapter of the album. The more I’ve listened to this album, the more it has sounded more complete whereas in the beginning it sounded thrown together.

Slide On Me & Sideways feel like they should have been one song together because Sideways feels like an extension of the point he was getting off when it comes to the person of interest toying with his emotions and trying to figure out if they should come or go in his life. “Are you with it or not?” And for some reason the song titles gave me the impression that they were metaphors that related to skateboarding. A popular trick to do on a board is to slide on a rail or whatever inanimate object, and certain tricks require you to be sideways in terms of your body position. That likely has nothing to do with the songs themselves, but it was weird how that came to me.

“I’m just all day running numbers
How the fuck you think I live?
Too many hands waitin’ for my downfall
They’re like ‘something’s gotta give’” –
Slide on Me 

“When I’m up they gon’ hate
When I’m sideways, yeah, I set me straight
When I’m up they gon’ hate
When I’m down they gon’ celebrate
Sittin’ sideways, too sideways, nah, it’s not too late” –
Sideways

People will always plot on you when you get to a certain level of success, and no one in the world is immune to that fact. Certainly it hits home for Frank as well, which is likely a reason why he’s been in the shadows for as long as he has. There’s still a form of insecurity that dwells when your trust has been violated within your circle, and it’s doesn’t even have to always be money. There’s a conflict within himself that he’s dealing with that other people don’t seem to want to deal with.

Florida & Deathstar (ASR) continue the trend of instrumentals on this album that play out as abstract thoughts from Frank’s mind that are conceived from random moments, yet they still carry the same message of needing to be wanted by someone. It’s an ‘endless’ flurry of sending out that love hoping to get that returned. The spectrum in which these are presented are so drastic, it’s intriguing. It’s really like a mosaic painting. All of these different colours and shapes that individually may not make sense, but when blown up and looked at from a distance, the picture is clear.

I’m more of a fan of Rushes To (Too?) than Rushes, but I do appreciate the fact that both of them play out as poems or journal entries that just happen to be sung out. The unorthodox presentation of this whole album has been dope, but I think the sequel outdid the original in this instance between the two. Rushes Too was dynamic in a sense where you have so many elements brought together to make the song full of life. There’s a simple concept that connects the two – it’s love had and love lost. The process of being in it, falling out, and then being in limbo trying to figure out which direction to go in, but the fact still remains that it’s a challenge any time you have to move on from a love once held.

“I’ll be back before
The street lights on, before the daylight’s gone
I was spoiled by lavish thoughts
They don’t compare, no not at all
And had this been the best I might not know
What to do with all”

What to make of this album is that it’s a random assortment of music that might get lost to some people because of: 1. How it was presented (as a visual album) and 2. Because of its eclectic nature. The combination of Hip Hop, House, and R&B sounds will throw people off guard and it even threw me off to the point where I had to step away because I didn’t know what it was trying to tell me as a whole. Because the album starts and ends with Device Control, which has a techno Daft Punk essence around it (minus the funk), the narrative can switch up as to what the subject matter could be about. Is it about a person? Is it about an idea? What is the love of? Is it the love of music and his return to it in such a dramatic way? It’s not a simple breakdown at all, but the point is that this is the first of 2 projects that are welcomed by Frank Ocean and knowing what Blonde could bring to the table, it may sound something completely opposite of this. Endless isn’t channel ORANGE, nor is it Nostalgia/ultra, but in its own way it’ll stand out, but because it’s not as accessible, it won’t be appreciated as much. Frank’s creative palette is very diverse and this is yet another example of just where his creativity can go. The majority of it, I enjoyed, some I could do without, but it stands out from a lot of music (especially those he shares a genre with) to warrant appreciation. Welcome back, Frank. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this review – Blonde. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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