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Frank Ocean: Blonde

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Towards the beginning of J.G. Ballard’s Crash, the book’s narrator finds himself in a horrendous car crash. But the experience isn’t a traumatic one; rather, it’s liberating. “After being bombarded endlessly by road safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident,” he says.
 
That sense of ecstatic pain – of trauma being transcendent – is peppered all throughout Frank Ocean’s long-awaited Blond(e), as too is the ever present spectre of the American automobile glimpsed throughout Crash. A track like Nike is all plush leather interiors and sleek, edge-less textures, and the record has all the sheen of a Royce.
 
But though it’s tempting to assume the work’s soulful surface and its darker suggestions are somehow distinct from each other, for Ocean, pain and beauty work in the same way. “In hell, in hell there’s heaven,”he croons on Solo, his voice all suggestion and smoke. Even a song like Ivy, a coiled loop of a melody readymade for the radio, has a bitterness soaked through it. It is both of these things at once then – dark and danceable, pathetic and poppy.
 
But more than anything, it’s sincere. It’s rare to encounter a record so unashamed; so open in its invitation. Ultimately, Blond(e) has things to offer you. And Blond(e) asks nothing in return but that you listen.
 
BY JOSEPH EARP