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What People Are Saying About Frank Ocean’s New Visual Album “Endless”

by john russell August 19, 2016

It’s finally here! Or rather, something is. Late last night, Frank Ocean finally released some new music via a visual album available to stream exclusively on Apple Music. The 45-minute video features footage of Ocean building a stand-alone staircase that originally streamed on his site set to 17 new tracks and a previously released cover of the Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best.”

But according to Rolling Stone, Endless isn’t Boys Don’t Cry. Boys Don’t Cry isn’t even Boys Don’t Cry anymore. That as yet un- or re-titled album proper is reportedly due sometime this weekend on Apple Music. We’ll hold our breath.

For now, the early first-listen hot takes are rolling in. Here’s what people are saying about the surprise visual album.

“It features over a dozen new lush, introspective songs… Overall, the tracks fit more into the mold of his dark, eerie André 3000 collaboration ‘Pink Matter’ than say, the catchy, Stevie Wonder-esque ‘Super Rich Kids.’” —

“If visual albums increase in prevalence — and Ocean’s decision to make one with Endless further suggests they will — Beyoncé’s Lemonade will serve as a reference point. But Endless and Lemonade are about as different as two projects sharing the designation can be. Lemonade was a vibrant amalgam of distinctive settings, eye-popping fashion, tactfully deployed special effects, and even guest appearances by the likes of Serena Williams. Endless, by contrast, is restricted to a plain, colorless warehouse, where Ocean works on a singular, simplistic goal: building his staircase from scratch.” —Entertainment Weekly

Endless sounds like an album made by a recluse, in the best possible way; Frank’s emotions are more muted, the album’s references less obvious, his influences wide-ranging from years of researching and woodshedding and practice. And based on the Internet’s instant reaction, fans aren’t writing it off as a meandering experiment or a disappointing left-turn for the artist. Endless is an album that’ll reveal itself more with every listen, its 45-minute run time making it even more of a joy to spend time with.” —USA Today

“Shot in stark black-and-white by Francisco Soriano, the 45-minute art piece is hardly the kind of fun, splashy, topical adventure that Ocean mentor Beyoncé displayed with her lavishly appointed, conversation-starting visual album Lemonade. Instead, it finds Ocean – actually three Oceans, shadowy silhouettes of one another – wandering across a studio as he assembles some kind of project. The piece seems designed to give us insight into the process of attempting to craft a masterpiece, as well as reward us with new music in advance of his next proper album’s seemingly imminent arrival.” —Rolling Stone

Endless is a sonic evolution from Channel Orange, but still keeps in theme with Ocean’s familiar palette. Looping ambient beats build infectiously under confessional lyricism that sometimes gives way to braggadocious lines. He raps; he sings; he taps a few guest vocalists, like electro-crooner Sampha and R&B star Jazmine Sullivan (according to the credits), who sing on the brutally candid ‘Alabama.’” —Vanity Fair

“The most charitable snap judgement about this situation would be to say that it’s another example of how the Internet has enabled innovation around the notion of the album and the album release. The less charitable thought would be that this roll-out seems designed to maintain Ocean’s mysterious image and monumental buzz him while distracting a bit from the music itself (and, of course, making money for him and Apple). But in the hours and days to come, the music will seep to the fore of the conversation. Regardless of whether another Ocean album appears in anytime soon, Endless is too original, strange, and gorgeous not to inspire obsession.” —The Atlantic

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john russell


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