Frank Ocean has been keeping fans on their toes the past few days. After releasing his visual album Endless on Thursday (Aug. 18) and a music video for “Nikes” early Saturday morning (Aug. 20), the elusive singer-songwriter has released yet another album, titled Blonde, as well as an oversized, glossy magazine titled Boys Don’t Cry, which Ocean initially suggested was the title of the LP.
To commemorate the release of Blonde — which on some artwork is spelled Blond — and its accompanying periodical, Ocean staged pop-up shops in New York City, London, Chicago and Los Angeles. Silver packages containing the magazine, which came with a CD of the project, lined the walls of New York’s Mulberry Iconic Magazines, a bodega where the album was being premiered for fans through Sonos speakers, while the Los Angeles pop-up took place at Centerfold International, a small newsstand on Fairfax. Ocean’s mother and brother were at the event in Los Angeles, and although the singer was rumored to be making an appearance, ultimately he did not. Fans of the artist were pleasantly surprised to learn the package — which came in four different covers — was free.
Within a half-hour after Ocean announced the shops at around 6 p.m. ET, the line in NYC swelled down the street, with organizers letting in a few patrons at a time to get one copy of the package apiece. At around 9:30, the organizers apparently counted out 260 people on the line and told the rest to go home, giving the lucky few an unpackaged version of the magazine that did not come with the album. In Los Angeles, floors, walls and the ceiling of the shop read “Blonde Boys Don’t Cry” as fans screamed of excitement upon receiving their copy — many coincidentally holding Kanye West’s Life of Pablo merchandise from the rapper’s weekend pop-up a few blocks away.
Inside the magazine contained a copy of Blonde, as well a spread of high-fashion photos, poems penned by Ocean, short stories, an outline for a television show and interviews with Lil’ B and Om’Mas Keith. Contributors listed in the credits for the magazine were extensive, including Kanye West, Tyler, the Creator, James Blake, A$AP Rocky, photographer Nabil Elderkin and more.
But the true surprise came in the form of Blonde, which was released simultaneously on Apple Music. The credits are extensive: Amber Coffman, Andre 3000, Anthony Phillips, Arca, the Beatles, Benjamin Wright, Beyonce, Bob Ludwig, Brian Eno, Buddy Ross, Caleb Levan, Christophe Chassol, David Bowie, Elliott Smith, Fish, Gang of Four, James Blake, Jamie xx, Jason Lader, Jazmine Sullivan, Jeff Ellis, Joe Visciano, Jonny Greenwood, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Kim Burrell, Kohh, Loota, Malay, Matt Mysko, Mike Dean, Michael Uzowuru, Om’Mas Keith, Pharrell Williams, Rick Rubin, Rostam Batmanglij, Sam Petts-Davies, Sean Oakley, Sebastian, Space Man, Tom Elmhirst, Tyler, the Creator, Yung Lean and 88-Keys.
Upon first listen, Beyonce can be heard wailing in the background on “Pink + White,” a floating mid-tempo tune peppered with keys and a swinging percussion section, while Burrell sings at the conclusion of “Godspeed.” Andre 3000 guests on the brief “Solo (Reprise),” while his mother leaves him a voicemail about not doing drugs or drinking alcohol on “Be Yourself.” Several artists are credited as Ocean draws from outside lyrics, namely the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” on “White Ferrari” and Elliott Smith’s “A Fond Farewell” on “Seigfried.” The album is unexpectedly low-key, with many quiet tracks and ballads.
Kanye West contributes a poem — about McDonald’s, of all things — for the mag, stretched across three spreads. It reads as follows: “McDonald’s man / McDonald’s man / The French fries had a plan / The French fries had a plan / The salad bar and the ketchup made a band / Cus the French Fries had a plan / The French fries had a plan / McDonald’s man / McDonald’s / I know them French fries have a plan / I know them French fries have a plan / The cheeseburger and the shakes formed a band / To overthrow the French fries plan / I always knew them French fries was evil man / Smelling all good and shit / I don’t trust no food that smells that good man / I don’t trust it / I just can’t / McDonald’s man / McDonald’s man / McDonald’s, man / Them French fries look good tho / I knew the Diet Coke was jealous of the fries / I knew the McNuggets was jealous of the fries / Even the McRib was jealous of the fries / I could see it through his artificial meat eyes / And he only be there some of the time / Everybody was jealous of them French fries / Except for that one special guy / That smooth apple pie.”
There are a few peculiar aspects of the release. In the magazine, there are lyrics to 12 songs, two of which are not included on Blonde: “Mitsubishi Sony” and “Easy.” The lyrics to “Mitsubishi Sony” have been transcribed from the mag via Genius, as have the lyrics for “Easy.” Additionally, there are discrepancies in the spelling of the album title. The physical CD has the word “Blonde” on it, while the album cover on iTunes is spelled “Blond,” suggesting that perhaps there are two versions. Some early reports from Los Angeles’ pop-up stated that the CD in the magazine was different from what was released on iTunes, although the only apparent difference is on “Nikes”: the magazine version features a verse at the end of the song from Japanese rapper Kohh.
Blonde and Boys Don’t Cry arrive long after fans expected the project to drop. Ocean stated that his third album, which is how he refers to it on the magazine packaging, would initially arrive last July. When the release date came and went, speculation was widespread of when he would actually drop it. Ocean launched a mysterious black-and-white livestream on Aug. 1, depicting him cutting wood while murky instrumental music played in the background. The New York Times soon reported that he would release the album in early August, but the set failed to materialize. Then, on Aug. 18, the livestream picked up when Ocean reappeared as Endless played in the background while he built a spiral staircase.
Additional reporting by Lauren Craddock.