Label: Boys Don't Cry
Released: Aug. 20
After the waiting, the false starts, the rumors, and the feverish anticipation, Frank Ocean released something that, somehow, lived up to the hype. Channel Orange cemented his reputation as a singular talent, a voice and songwriter like no other in the landscape. Afterward, he flirted with the indelible fame that comes with releasing an undeniable classic and then disappearing. Instead, he released Blonde.
The album itself is amorphous; even the most incisive critic will have trouble articulating what, exactly, it’s about. Rather than working around some sort of unifying theme, Blonde engages with race, sexuality, social unrest, and identity with a feather-light touch and Ocean’s now-trademark novelistic eye for detail. It’s impressionistic and deeply felt—no one else can express yearning, in more permutations than you thought possible, this beautifully. Musically, it’s gorgeous, perhaps the most listenable album of 2016, which is fortunate—Ocean is grappling with so much on Blonde. It’s the rare album that could take years to fully unpack. —Brendan Klinkenberg