Sunday, June 16, 2024

Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” Album Is Number 1 on iTunes, But a Mess in All Other Respects


Frank Ocean released two albums last week– first a visual album called “Endless.” What was that? Who knew? Then on top of it he released “Blonde” which may or not be spelled with an ‘e’ at the end.

“Blonde” went right to number 1 on iTunes, where it sits now. But otherwise, “Blonde” is part of a big mess.

Apparently, “Endless” was created to fulfill Ocean’s contract with Universal Music Group.

Thus freed, Ocean has released “Blonde” on his own Boys Don’t Cry label. That’s easy to do, since “Blonde” is only digital. There is no hard CD. If anyone wants a CD, they’ll have to make it themselves, since Boys Don’t Cry is virtual at the moment.

This is either wrecking the record business or revolutionizing it. But what’s happening in real time is that no tracks from “Blonde” can be purchased separately. It’s all “album only.” So there are no songs from “Blonde” on the iTunes singles chart. That’s because there are no singles. “Blonde” is kind of a mood piece. You can’t really separate out the tracks. It’s all or nothing.

The tracks have no choruses or hooks, either. So they’re not radio friendly. Hence, no radio play. I like “Blonde” but I think if I heard it on the radio in my car, I’d fall asleep. That wouldn’t be good.

Meanwhile, hitsdailydouble says UMG’s Lucian Grainge is laying down the law with Universal artists about all digital drops that bypass the actual record business. Why did it take so long, I wonder? The business is already in a free fall. Now “artists” are just putting out music with no editing, marketing, sales or distribution. The result — look at Kanye’s Pablo debacle– is a big mess. Want to see the business really works? Look at Taylor Swift or Adele for successes. Or even Drake.

People are fighting over what Ocean’s album is– is it good, for example? It’s interesting. It’s not really a full album. It’s noodling and doodling. But I guess no one can tell him that. No one’s brave enough to.

No one listened 20 years ago and they were warned about hip hop sampling old music and not creating anything new for a generation. Now the music you hear in commercials all comes from the original songs. A whole generation of music is missing– it can’t be used, and no one’s really nostalgic for hit. Puff Daddy’s biggest hit was a rework of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” Trust me, as cool as “Blonde” seems this week, it will be forgotten.

For a coherent R&B recording for 2016, try instead Maxwell’s “blackSUMMER’snight 2016.” You’ll see the difference.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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