The opening beats of “Nikes” are like little pops of pure ecstasy coursing into your body through the ear holes. The song itself is a very Frank-kinda strange that offers some promise that maybe Blond could actually live up to the hype.
There are a lot of brilliant moments on the album, but it isn’t all peaches and cream. It’s been four years and sometimes I get the feeling that stuff was written or an idea came about sometime in the past and it feels a little dated. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, just out of character for someone who seemed so ahead of the curve.
The lyrics are strong throughout, which makes sense for such a skilled songwriter. “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you loved me. The start of nothing, Had no chance to prepare, didn’t see you coming. And we started from nothing.” Those words,and many others, could come off as cliché or corny if they were delivered without the feeling Ocean puts behind them. He turns it into profundity.
And then there’s the vocal runs that come out of nowhere on “Solo.” My first reaction was “Whoa that’s a bold move.” Then it comes back again after the second verse and it dawned on me that it’s really just a primal refrain delivering pure emotion instead of words and it’s a beautiful thing. The actual chorus is pretty damn good, too.
The earnest longing and desire on “Self Control” stands out as the truest Frank gets on Blond. It’s the best track on the record for my money, despite the auto-tuned vocals from Slow Hollow’s Austin Feinstein that make it much harder to take the song seriously.
Then Blond takes some turns that I can’t really get down with. Again, not bad. Just not as strong as the first handful of songs. He drops some interesting things in here and there-the weird Radioheadish guitar blur at the end of “Good Guy,” the personal story behind “Nights,” and of course over a full minute of Andre 3000 spitting fire like he hasn’t since “Stankonia.”
“Pretty Sweet” and “Close To You” feel like unfinished thoughts sandwiched around “Facebook Story,” which fits thematically but seems unnecessary when the record already has 16 other tracks (maybe if it featured Frank at all, I wouldn’t consider it so wasteful).
“White Ferrari” brings the album back a bit. It’s been around for a while-I think it leaked on Soundcloud forever ago. Still, it drags a bit. If this were the album closer the vibe would be different and the slower tempo would fit better. There’s still three tracks to go and I feel like if it ended here it would probably be a better album.
Again, not to say Blond isn’t great. There’s way more right than wrong here, and considering the wait we should be very grateful for that. He could’ve easily released something that was subpar just to appease his fans, but he didn’t. He chose to do things his way and make a piece of art that reflects who he is (or was from the beginning of the process to the end). That kind of integrity is rare in the music business, and he should be applauded for it.