Frank Ocean has had his fans on their heels for years now. Dropping hints for the rumored Boys Don't Cry (which is still coming out soon, it seems) had fans hounding the internet to discover every possible clue there is. The time is finally here. Ocean dropped a unique album in Endless, a visual album that is one of the first of its kind. But did this experiment turn out well?
Endless is something new and original, and for that alone it deserves recognition. We knew whatever Frank had up his sleeve, that it was going to be huge. And that it was. Ocean now has millions watching 45 minutes of three of himself building a wooden staircase to music.
The most important element of the record is its format, and here's why it could have been a good idea in general: music is provocative of all senses, and it will always inspire a unique visualization. Watching music videos and a directors interpretation of the song provides one of millions of interpretations of it. Music videos are slowly becoming less and less relevant, but that doesn't stop them from being a big part of how music can develop.
Endless isn't like that. It's 45 minutes of black-and-white woodworking. Perhaps there is an overarching message, but the visual doesn't support the narrative of each track. It's like the three Franks put on the album in the background to work to. This idea could've been a lot better in execution, had the visual at least represented the album in some way. There just isn't any connection until you look at the big picture of it, and even then you're only looking at the overall idea of the video, not any specific moment within it. Let's not get started on how the format doesn't allow you to see which track you're listening to, or which track you're on; when it shows the album tracklist and credits at the end, you'll have to search around for it in case you missed something.
The music itself has a much wide appeal than the video, and the songs have a clearer message than the video displays. As far as the music goes, Endless is a very pretty record. Frank Ocean delivers soulful and chilling vocals on a plethora of tracks, including 'Rushed'. There isn't one sound to the album, though. As pretty as it is, there are lots of flavors on it. There's the beautiful, symphonic led cover of the Isley Brothers' 'You Are Best (You Are Love)' featuring Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, the London Contemporary Orchestra, and James Blake, with a sweet and longing vocal delivery. There's also the acoustic guitar driven sweet 'Slide On Me', topped with a great melody and great bassy beats. Then there's the hip-hop influenced 'U-N-I-T-Y', that, with its strong verses, slams the desires of an average individual in society.
This is where the message of the album ties in with the video. As heard with the robotic voice found in 'Device Control' and 'Higgs', technology has hypnotized us. We're so interested in streaming parts of our lives and others that we forget our own needs. It all becomes a game. That's what the video tries to emulate - a simpler activity in an isolated place. In that warehouse, there was no worry or need to stream anything. There, he can work on his staircase in peace and without worry. I can't quite put a finger on what the symbolism of the staircase is, but it's not clear based on the video and music.
Are visual albums the next big thing in music? Are we going to see the next Kanye West album released as a visual experience? Frank Ocean may have started a revolution, but he didn't start it well. Endless is a great album to listen to, but not to watch. Sadly, unless you're watching the video, you can't go back and replay your favorite songs (just yet - hopefully this'll change). Boys Don't Cry is coming soon, and hopefully it'll outdo this attempt.
Endless can be exclusively streamed on Apple Music.
Favorite Tracks: You Are Best (You Are Love), Slide On Me
Least Favorite Tracks: Higgs, Whitter 10 Hubolts, Device Control
- Music: 75 / 100
- Video: 45 / 100
- Average: 60 / 100