After a long four-year hiatus, the reclusive, Grammy-winning crooner, Frank Ocean, has finally blessed us with not just one, but two brand new full-length albums.
It seems only right that after this long wait he would drop two albums, but even through all the anticipation we only expected a single project from Frank.
What he did with the roll-out of this album is pure genius; essentially pulling a ‘Drake’ and a ‘Beyonce’ at the same time. This will make sense later.
Ocean had been teasing the album with the presumed title Boys Don’t Cry for over a year now, but neither project obtained that title, as he released the Endless visual album on the 19th of August, and his Blonde album just a day after. Boys Don’t Cry was only incorporated into the the title of his magazine which was released the same day as Blonde, as well as his website name.
There is said to be another version of Blonde inside the magazine which was only available to purchase at four exclusive pop-up shops around the world.
But what Frank Ocean did goes way further than dropping two albums and a magazine in a 48 hour span; it’s how he did it.
The release of Endless was under Frank’s contract obligation with Def Jam. After that, he immediately left Def Jam, and went on to release Blonde the very next day, independently.
Now this is how Frank pulled a ‘Drake’ and a ‘Beyonce’ at the same time.
By dropping Endless Frank fulfilled his contractual obligation with Def Jam, and then was able to leave the label thereafter. This move is very similar to what Drake did with If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late, releasing what he called a ‘mixtape’ in order to fulfill his contract obligations with Cash Money, then leaving to eventually drop his Views album a year later, independently.
He also pulled somewhat of a ‘Beyonce’ by not announcing release date but just dropping the album out of thin air through one exclusive streaming service (Apple Music) for the first week (not to mention a visual album as well, though not as extravagant).Genius, am I right?
The magazine that Ocean curated is essentially a bonus to all of the music he released that weekend, but it even includes an alternate version of Blonde, technically dropping three different albums in one weekend. Frank probably didn’t need four years to record his album, but rather to manifest his his entire vision with the release of his second album. UMG and Def Jam have got to be livid with him and here’s why:
All of Def Jam’s promoting and record sales/streams are being compensated through Endless only. That means that Endless is the only body of work that the label has any control over. Frank did an exceptional job with the album and the visuals, but there is rarely any commercial value to it. The majority of the album mostly consists of obscure instrumentals and harmonies, and there doesn’t seem to be a specific direction that Frank is taking it in. Though it is a decent effort from Ocean and a valid creative endeavor, he knew there weren’t any radio-ready songs on Endless. He did this purposefully.
And that takes us to Blonde, the album that everyone wanted but didn’t expect from Frank. The album that Def Jam essentially wanted instead of Endless, and rightfully so, for it is expected to move 250k units in it’s first week.
From listening to Blonde, it is clear that this is the album that Frank intended to put out as his official, sophomore LP. It is crisp, cohesive, and has a clear direction in it’s concept. Songs like “Pink + White”, “Nikes”, and “Nights” are definitely the type of songs that radio would consider. The main difference between the situation with the two albums is that instead of collecting around 14% of the profits from Endless, with his independent release, Blonde, Ocean will be collecting close to 70% of it’s profits. Great business move on Frank’s part, and a frustrating defeat for Def Jam and UMG.
This is how Frank Ocean finessed the music industry, and is why UMG now wants to ban exclusive streaming for any artist.
The late Prince would surely be proud of what Ocean did, not compromising the integrity of his music and freeing himself from the shackles of a label, while sticking it to the label at the same time. There have been talks that Def Jam and UMG may sue Frank Ocean for what he did. Hopefully all works out for Frank in the end, because he really is dedicated to his music and will go lengths to ensure that it is done his way.
His unconventional ways have been consistent throughout his career. After releasing a 9-minute-long single for his first album, then pulling this off, it’s safe to say that Frank Ocean has truly grown as an artist, and a con-artist in ways.
Thank you Frank, for another incredible body of music. Stream the album Blonde here via Apple Music: