8 things to know about frank ocean's long-awaited album(s)
From the contributions of David Bowie and Gang of Four to Ocean's Tumblr essay on the lengthy but freeing creation process, here are eight bonus facts to enrich your listening experience of the overdue and outstanding release.
Frank Ocean's long-awaited album Blond finally semi-surprise dropped on Saturday night, laying to rest the memes and think pieces, and confirming that the 13-month delay was very well worth it. The unconventional rollout — it's been the year of them — has left fans with a lot to unpack from the luxuriant, expansive Blond, its lo-fi predecessor Endless, and the zine that Ocean's most zealous fans cleared from shelves after lining up overnight. From the contributions of David Bowie and Gang of Four to just what the "twooo versions" are that Ocean originally teased back in April 2015, here are eight bonus facts about the release(s) that will make repeat-listening that much richer an experience.
The full Endless video is 140 hours long
Space-obsessed New York artist Tom Sachs was early on revealed to have a big role in Ocean's new album. The cryptic video live-stream Ocean began screening on his website on August 1 was actually Sachs' installation Toyan's (2001), which appeared recently in the artist's Boombox Retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. Over the weekend, Sachs explained the symbolism of the video that later morphed into the visual album Endless. He also revealed that the final video is only a very tiny part of a much larger art project. "The 40-minute version is edited, but there's something like a 140-hour version," he said. "That's the whole thing. That exists, that's the art piece." He also spoke about the industrial, non-musical sounds scattered throughout Endless that mirror the building process and replicate the flaws on vinyl records that pre-date samples.
Frank says that the creation process was lengthy, oppressive, and freeing
Ocean has previously used his Tumblr to write beautiful essays on everything from terrorism and sexuality to his late hero Prince. Following the release of Blond, he used the platform to share a lengthy note about the making of the album and the Boys Don't Cry zine. The enigmatic artist is a huge petrolhead — just prior to the release of Endless he was spotted racing cars in Los Angeles with Tyler, The Creator — and likens the album creation process to commuting through cities and flying down freeways. "I found it romantic, sometimes, editing this project," he writes. "The whole time I felt as though I was in the presence of a $16m McLaren F1 armed with a disposable camera. My memories are in these pages, places closeby and long ass-numbing flights away. Recording in Tokyo, NYC, Miami, LA, London, Paris. Stopping in Berlin to witness Berghain for myself. Trading jewels and soaking in parables with the many-headed Brandon aka BasedGod in conversation." In a second all-caps text note, Ocean thanked his fans for having no chill about the overdue release. "I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE MAKING ALL OF THIS. THANK YOU ALL. ESPECIALLY THOSE OF YOU WHO NEVER LET ME FORGET I HAD TO FINISH. WHICH IS BASICALLY EVERY ONE OF YA'LL. HAHA. LOVE YOU."
Wolfgang Tillmans was involved in both Blond and its accompanying zine
Legendary German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans has been busy with a string of musical projects. His own unreleased track "Device Control" — off his surprise techno EP 30 years in the making — was debuted on Ocean's Endless album on Thursday. Detailing his involvement in Ocean's project on Instagram, Tillmans revealed how the collaboration was born. "We were in touch about the intro, but I wouldn't believe it until it happened," he wrote. "Four weeks ago I showed him a few songs, which I had written and produced for myself earlier in the year, and he replied 'Device Control' is brilliant. Love. Can I sample it for the intro of my album?' I agreed to it, and to my excited surprise this morning he didn't just sample it. He released my complete original track as the end of this amazing album. So now it's out — and in full length." Tillmans previously exhibited photographs of Ocean as part of a show at New York's David Zwirner gallery last year. He also shot the artist for the cover of his Boys Don't Cry zine and the Blond cover artwork.
The zine is selling for $1000 on eBay (but may get a wider release)
Speaking of the Boys Don't Cry zine, if you didn't line up overnight to score one, you can always cough up $1,000 for one eBay. Or maybe don't — early this morning, Ocean's mom Katonya Breaux tweeted a possible hint that the zine might soon get a second, wider release. Don't pay those ridiculous prices for the mags on eBay," she warned overly eager fans. "Just hang tight a sec.." Fingers crossed.
Ocean originally debuted the Blond tracks 'Ivy" and "Seigfried" back in 2013
Superfans who thought that two of Blond's tracks sounded a little familiar soon identified them as ones first played during a 2013 concert in Munich, Germany. This was before even the release of "Memrise," a spacey, lo-fi snippet Ocean uploaded to Tumblr over a year later in November 2014.
There are two versions
As promised in the now-infamous April 2015 Tumblr post, Ocean does indeed have two versions. "I got two versions. I got twoooo versions," he teased at the time. While some thought that the double release was referring to the album and the zine — and later, the album and the preceding visual album Endless — it's now known that Blond itself differs depending on whether you pick it up online or IRL. Those who did manage to score a copy at one of Ocean's pop-up stores posted photos of Blond with a tracklisting that differs to Blonde on Apple Music. While "Mitsubishi Sony" and "Easy" are physical exclusives, the cautionary social media track "Facebook Story" is featured on the online version only.
The staircase-building album stream story was actually leaked months ago
Back in March, Twitter user @mishkwan posed a rather strange and hilarious account of being hit on by a guy who insisted he was teaching Ocean how to build a staircase. "This dude at a bar told me he's teaching frank ocean how to build a staircase for a music video," she wrote. "This dude also told me he signed a non-disclosure for it lol." She thanked the dude for trying to impress her and detailed that Ocean apparently "builds a staircase (of the spiral variety I believe) in the video." She realized the guy wasn't spinning a bullshit pickup story when Ocean started streaming the video in question on August 1, tweeting, "I guess this is real." In an interview with Complex, @mishkwan said she is a fan of Ocean — but has no desire to see the guy again, and can't even remember what he looked like.
David Bowie and Frank's mom may have contributed to Blond
Ocean's Blond collaborators are a giant mix of both expected and rather surprising names. An "album contributors" section in the accompanying zine name-checks artists including but definitely not limited to David Bowie, Kanye West, Jamie xx, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, the Beatles, André 3000, Brian Eno, Arca, Pharrell, Gang of Four, SebastiAn, Yung Lean, and Elliott Smith. This is of course on top of the lengthy list of names that contributed to Endless just two days prior. A run-down of who did what is yet to be released, though not everything is totally cryptic. Elliott Smith's "A Fond Farewell" is featured on "Seigfried," while the Beatles' "Here, There, and Everywhere" gets a nod on "White Ferrari." French producer SebastiAn narrates the social media warning "Facebook Story" and a mom (Frank's?) cautions against the dangers of weed on "Be Yourself."
Text Hannah Ongley