Frank Ocean's long journey into "Nights"

Blonde's most grounded moment
frank ocean.jpg

Very rarely do I come across an album that takes more than four days to assess. For most musical outings, four days is just enough time either to develop a well-rounded opinion of a record or, in some cases, to become irreversibly bored by it. Regardless of the outcome, I can't really overstate how often life plays out this way.

But Frank Ocean’s third LP Blonde does not fall into the category of "most musical outings." On the contrary, Blonde is a strong, gorgeous, thrilling record created by a generational icon-in-training. I’ve been cemented in my tracks for the better part of four days now, and I’m only just getting comfortable talking about the album with other people. I think it’s because trying to describe Blonde to someone who hasn’t heard it—even if that person has heard Channel Orange—is like trying to describe a dream you barely remember. The motif is convoluted at-best, and no matter how flat the description may fall, you’ll inevitably rely on the one or two relatable remnants of memory to anchor an already shitty description.

Given that the majority of Blonde refrains from following a traditional sonic structure, “Nights” almost inadvertently serves as the album’s most grounded moment. From start to finish, “Nights” is a marvel, compiling a skip-along backbeat, an unavoidable hook and layers upon layers of crisp melody. Other tracks may test Ocean’s vocal versatility, but “Nights” showcases his imagination. Here we witness subtly mid-level highs accented by voluntary vibrato. Lyrics like, “New beginnings! Wake up, the sun’s going down / Time to start your day, bruh,” are delivered in a way that’s at-once conversational and contextually heartbreaking. I’ve never felt so connected to a concept I know nothing about.

I keep likening “Nights” to Channel Orange high-water mark “Pyramids”. I’m doing that because, about halfway through, “Pyramids” executes this stylistic about-face that changes the entire DNA of the song. “Nights” pulls a similar move, though the disparity isn’t nearly as dramatic. Instead, the transition happens fluidly, almost like observing a day move slowly, carefully into evening. This is Frank Ocean at his most colloquially languid, and the translation is flawless.