Making Sense of Frank Ocean's New 'Album' (and When the Real One's Coming)
Following new music can feel like detective work. On any given night, a stray post on social media can cause you to head down an internet rabbit-hole, frantically refresh Twitter, check music sites, and scour streaming services to find out what the hell everyone is talking about. Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kanye West have turned us all into amateur sleuths, but one performer trumps them all: Frank Ocean, the R&B Moriarty to your iPhone-checking Sherlock Holmes.
The anticipation level for Ocean's new album, Boys Don't Cry, the follow-up to 2012's Grammy-winning Channel Orange, has been intense ever since the singer officially announced the album's title (along with an accompanying zine-like publication with the same name) back in April 2015. Multiple projected release dates have passed since then, leading many fans to ask: where's the record? No, seriously, where is it?
Well, after months of speculation, new Frank Ocean music is here! Last night, Ocean released Endless, a new album that's now available to stream via Apple Music, but with a twist: despite being very cool and exciting, it's not actually the album he's been hyping for more than a year. That's right: another music mystery to solve. To help you parse it, we've pieced together what you need to know to crack this interactive album-release puzzle.
Endless is its own beast -- but it should also be a little familiar
On August 1, a livestream appeared on Ocean's website, showing the singer assembling a mysterious structure in a wood-shop-like warehouse and featuring snippets of new music, like a gritty reboot of Tool Time from Home Improvement. Ocean, in collaboration with his "Lost" director Francisco Soriano, has now edited and layered the woodworking footage to create Endless, a "visual album" offering 45 minutes' worth of new music -- including those blissful Ocean vocals you've been missing for four years.
Ocean isn't alone on this record. The 18-track project features musical contributions from a wide range of collaborators, including Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, British singer-songwriter James Blake, R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan, electronic artist Sampha, frequent Kanye West producer Mike Deen, and many of the musicians who contributed to Channel Orange. If you want to discover more musical Easter eggs, The Fader has the complete album credits for you to dig through.
Boys Don't Cry is still coming, but it's got a new name
So, what happened to the original album teased all those months ago? It's not Endless, according to Rolling Stone. The magazine reports that Boys Don't Cry is now expected to come out this weekend. And oh yeah, it's not actually called Boys Don't Cry. An Apple Music representative told Rolling Stone that the singer has scrapped that title in favor of a new title that has yet to be revealed.
That doesn't mean the The Album Formerly Known As Boys Don't Cry will actually debut this weekend. We've been burned before. Earlier this month, the New York Timesreported that the project would be released on August 5. The record failed to materialize. It's clear that Ocean has been tinkering with this project for a while and wants everything to be just right before he unleashes it into the world, but the reveal of Endless suggests that he might be ready to let the cat out of the bag. The wait is (probably) coming to an end.
But what did Ocean build in the video?
In addition to releasing a visual album and an old-fashioned record, the Endless video also resulted in a finished construction project. Now we know what it was: a staircase. Of course, Twitter had jokes about the thing.
We'll keep updating this post as more information (and possibly more wooden structures!) becomes available.
Last night, Frank Ocean released a second album. According to the cover art, it's called Blond , although it's currently styled as Blonde in the Apple Music store, where you can now listen to the 17-track project in its entirety. The album dropped on Saturday evening following the release of a new non-carpentry-related video for the track "Nikes," which you can watch below.
In addition to the video, the album also arrived with a bit of IRL fanfare. In New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and London, the album was sold at Boys Don't Cry pop-up shops, where fans lined up to purchase the magazine that was initially promised back when the album was first announced under the title Boys Don't Cry. Each copy of the glossy magazine also included a CD copy of the new album.
While official song-by-song album credits have not been released, the magazine included a list of "album contributors." It's an impressive and eclectic bunch, with contemporary artists Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar sharing credits with The Beatles and Elliott Smith. Take a look below.
If you weren't able to make it out to one of the pop-up spots last night, an Ocean-penned note from the magazine has also appeared on Ocean's Tumblr page. The essay provides some context for the release of the album, discussing the importance of cars to the record and some of his thoughts about the recording process.
Also, Ocean posted a more humorous note on his website that reads, "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.”
Good to see he kept his sense of humor intact through this whole thing.
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