Universal acclaim - based on 38 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 38
  2. Negative: 0 out of 38
  1. Sep 1, 2016
    Soulful, impeccable production shines on every heartbreak and highlight.
  2. Aug 25, 2016
    For the first time in a long time, an artist riding on hype surfaced with an album that lives up to the very hype that lifted it. Better yet, in time, Blonde will surpass its hype. The album’s greatest feat is its ability to expand when it’s listened to in a new mindset, each reveal seemingly so apparent that you wonder how you missed it the first time.
  3. 100
    With these 17 tracks, Ocean shows himself to be one of pop’s foremost innovators.
  4. Aug 22, 2016
    The entire album plays like an Ocean view, clear and uncluttered by outsized cameos.
  5. Aug 22, 2016
    Realign your expectations, and what gradually emerges is a record of enigmatic beauty, intoxicating depth and intense emotion.
  6. Aug 25, 2016
    Beautifully more simple than any of our mythmaking delusions, Blonde is Ocean’s life as he experiences it: fluid and fluctuating, one man in motion. This is what freedom sounds like.
  7. 91
    On the whole, Blonde is more assured and consistent than Channel Orange. It inherits the bagginess of his overstuffed debut, but lacks the thrill of groundbreaking novelty. Frank Ocean is an outlier, an artist who can produce an album this phenomenal and nevertheless fall a bit short.
  8. Magnet
    Oct 18, 2016
    This is an album of mostly beatless soul whose heart nevertheless pumps vividly and loudly throughout its 17 tracks. [No. 136, p.61]
  9. Sep 1, 2016
    Uninterested in zipping from A to B, it is instead a moving, repeatedly devastating depiction of an artist who is still trying to figure out his place in the world as he moves forward in life, ever mindful of what we leave behind, the things said and left unspoken, the good and the bad that comes with trying to make it all make sense and the sobering knowledge that we cannot go back.
  10. Sep 1, 2016
    It demands your attention, but more importantly, it deserves it too. This is the sound of an artist in complete control, full of confidence and dazzling flair.
  11. Aug 29, 2016
    It’s just about impossible to live up to the hype that an album like this has been subjected to, but Ocean comes pretty close. Blonde is often a bit of a sprawling mess, but with some patience it becomes one of the most rewarding albums you’ll hear all year.
  12. 90
    Blonde is a work of art that will stick with us all for way longer than four short years.
  13. Aug 26, 2016
    Blonde is the sound of an artist urging his listener to be patient, and in this age of instant gratification, it is a refreshing, rewarding triumph.
  14. Aug 24, 2016
    The power of Frank’s work often comes via extreme transparency, but he’s not writing diaries. It’s about how he’s able to locate the crux of any situation, or expose undue artifice, or peel things back to their naked core.
  15. Aug 24, 2016
    Vibrant, it colours outside the lines. Poignant, it's transparent with altering modes of bravado, vulnerability and desperation. It is, thoroughly, a Frank Ocean album, yearning for perfection, sating the audience's hunger for dynamism, yet with the persistent feeling that the artist feels it's all a failure.
  16. Sep 16, 2016
    Much of the rest of Blonde is far less accessible than its predecessor. And that's not a bad thing.
  17. Aug 25, 2016
    As Blonde gets closer to the finish line, the same themes get explored again and again with a more collagelike musicality.
  18. The Wire
    Nov 8, 2016
    The sum is Ocean’s most thorough reading of his world to date. [Oct 2016, p.65]
  19. 80
    This is music that fascinates on first listen but requires multiple spins for its complexities and idiosyncrasies to take hold.
  20. Uncut
    Sep 23, 2016
    The sprawling haziness still lingers, but the songs are sharper and studded with guests. [Nov 2016, p.24]
  21. Q Magazine
    Sep 23, 2016
    These records might not eclipse Channel Orange, but they have their own mercurial gleam, mapping the spaces between people, reaching for a hazy intimacy that almost feels real. [Nov 2016, p.112]
  22. Sep 1, 2016
    It’s a beguiling, meandering sprawl that rewards total immersion.
  23. Sep 1, 2016
    For every low point there’s the unquestionable standouts.
  24. Aug 29, 2016
    [Endless and Blond(e)] are great--but they require time and, realistically, a step-back from the extraordinary (and sometimes ludicrous) hype that necessitates Ocean’s new works be either masterpieces or a complete let-down.
  25. Aug 29, 2016
    In his songs, Ocean is not in control. In fact, he is attractively lost.
  26. Aug 26, 2016
    The words on record are breathtaking for their deep focus, which is microscopic to the point of vaguery. Frank Ocean’s lyrics describe such specific scenes that their vocabulary is unmistakably about someone else, his own worlds within our own.
  27. Aug 25, 2016
    Frank’s rich sense of storytelling is still here, it’s just fragmented. But once Blonde’s ambiguity begins to piece together, it becomes something remarkable.
  28. Aug 25, 2016
    While most artists would have drowned under the pressure, hype, anticipation and scale of an album like Blonde, he passes with flying colors, making him not only one of the most unique R&B artists of our time, but also one of the best as well.
  29. Aug 24, 2016
    What results is a subtle study in duality, anchored by a single overt guest appearance--Andre 3000’s prickly, gymnastic verse on “Solo (Reprise)”--that, like an abstract of the album in miniature, manically splits off in a dozen topical directions at once.
  30. Aug 24, 2016
    The first half of Blonde is astonishing, sustained beauty. The second is more distant, closer to the shower improvs of Friday’s sounds-like-a-soundtrack-and-it-is Endless.
  31. Aug 22, 2016
    The music is sparer than it was on Channel Orange--more mature, jammed less feverishly with ideas--but adventurous nonetheless.
  32. Aug 22, 2016
    Only a handful of songs are beat-driven, but the electronic sounds are often subtle and organic. It’s rare for any one element to overtake his voice in the mix, but there are times when he fades out.
  33. Aug 22, 2016
    Blonde is dewy, radiant and easeful, with an approach to incantatory soul that evolves moment to moment. It’s feverish but unhurried, a slowly smoldering set that’s emphatic about loneliness.
  34. Aug 22, 2016
    This surprising effort answers breathless hype not with shouts but with one long exhalation.
  35. Aug 22, 2016
    Blonde makes for sensationally beautiful background music that can morph into a bizarre hodgepodge of disparate ideas when you concentrate on bringing it into the foreground.
  36. Aug 29, 2016
    An undoubtedly reactive work, this is undiluted and progressive nonetheless.
  37. Aug 26, 2016
    Much of Blonde sounds more like a minimalist soft rock record with its sparse, isolationist guitars and pianos; little to no drums; and choruses that fade into the rest of Frank’s dense, congested lyrics.
  38. 40
    Less structured and song-oriented than Channel Orange, it’s a long, meandering ramble through Ocean’s passing interests and attitudes, hopes and memories, alighted upon like scenes briefly glimpsed from a train window and then dropped into tracks that aren’t so much sung as delivered in an undulating sprechstimme that seems to be avoiding the difficult choice of a compelling melody.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 1322 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Aug 22, 2016
    4 years of waiting and this clear emotional album states Ocean's frustrations with social anxiety. Personally one of the best albums of 20164 years of waiting and this clear emotional album states Ocean's frustrations with social anxiety. Personally one of the best albums of 2016 but go ahead and listen for yourself Full Review »
  2. Feb 18, 2018
    I'm still trying to figure this one out, but so far it's really hard to tell why everyone is so smitten with this album.

    All of the songs
    I'm still trying to figure this one out, but so far it's really hard to tell why everyone is so smitten with this album.

    All of the songs really sound to me like tracks that should be on the end of the album as winding down tracks, I still don't get it.

    To explain a little, I'm not one to get too caught up in lyrics, so for all I know this might be a lyrical masterpiece, but I'm about the music and this album doesn't catch my attention much at all.

    Hopefully after some more listens I will come around, but for now I have to go back and listen to Channel Orange to get my fix.

    EDIT: I've figured it out, and I love it!
    (changed from a 4 to a 10)
    Full Review »
  3. Aug 28, 2016
    Most contemporary musical artists will do damn near anything to chase - and then maintain - relevance. In an industry of declining recordMost contemporary musical artists will do damn near anything to chase - and then maintain - relevance. In an industry of declining record sales and infinite musical choices a click away, major singers and bands are prone to hawk their product and brand incessantly across social media, corporate promotions, and ad campaigns. The fear of overexposure has been replaced by the fear of being forgotten entirely, and artists have reacted by shoving themselves in their audience’s face to the point of exasperation and passivity.

    It’s safe to say at this point that Frank Ocean is not like most artists today. In the four years preceding the release of Blonde, Frank drifted steadily further from the spotlight, hiding himself away in the studio and avoiding nearly all social media, and virtually any public appearances - musical or otherwise. Frank’s sabbatical from public life shot expectations into the stratosphere for his follow-up to Channel Orange, and after a protracted and unorthodox rollout, one of the key themes of listening to Blonde is how it twists and subverts those very expectations to create a sparse, insular masterpiece.

    As an opener, “Nikes” is both a promise and an affirmation. By beginning his long-awaited follow-up with three minutes of dramatically pitched-up vocals, Frank sends an immediate message that the album to follow was made on his own terms, and he is not beholden artistically to anything other than his own vision. The song shouts out the late A$AP Yams and Pimp C, who both died of drug overdoses including codeine - and the beat itself is a chopped-and-screwed downtempo haze reminiscent of codeine-fueled works of many Southern rap artists. But the most poignant remembrance is the one that follows: “RIP Trayvon, that **** look just like me” - one of the few times Blonde’s opaque reminiscences coalesce into a definitive social statement.

    When Frank’s unaltered voice finally reveals itself in the final two minutes of “Nikes”, adorned with a gently strummed acoustic guitar, it is as if the drugged-out haze has been parted by the sun. “We’ll let you guys prophesy”, he sings, setting up Blonde’s recurring rumination on the passage of time, memory, and an uncertain future. “White Ferrari” is a double entendre, reminiscing on both a drug-addled car ride and the highs and lows of a past relationship. “Solo” switches from present to past tense, with the first verse recounting tales of youthful innocence, and the second verse looking back from a jaded, melancholy perspective. “Seigfried” is an existential crisis masquerading as a love song, with a reference to solar flares that could extinguish civilization - a reminder to live in the moment with a future that can’t be controlled.

    These truths are revealed in a decidedly sparse manner, as Channel Orange’s expansive compositions are largely replaced by bare-bones arrangements, frequently consisting of little more than Frank’s voice and a single guitar. This sparsity is at first disarming, as it often seems upon first glance that these tracks could be home demos rather than professional studio recordings. Yet upon repeat listens, the power of this minimalism to reveal the underlying beauty in the songwriting becomes clear. Frank’s voice, as stunning and versatile as it has ever been, takes center stage throughout, and his lyrics cut through the guitar feedback with breathtaking emotional precision. As for the instrumentation itself, the dominance of guitars throughout Blonde gives the proceedings an indie rock edge rarely felt so strongly in R&B. A variety of studio collaborators, including Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, grace the record with diverse and subtle guitar work that perfectly fits each track. “Seigfried” is a particular standout, with a riff that feels straight out of classic rock ballads, pushed back in a haze of echo and reverb to appear as if broadcasting into the track from a distant stratosphere.

    Perhaps most striking on Blonde is the way that the variety of musical collaborators who contributed rarely make their presence explicitly known. Rather, their contributions serve as a means of achieving Frank’s singular vision, from which the album never wavers. Kendrick Lamar’s only vocal contribution to “Skyline To” is a few softly spoken words in the background, and even Beyonce is limited to harmonizing with Frank at the end of “Pink + White”, contributing very little lead vocals of her own. Tellingly, the only true guest vocal feature on the entire album is in many ways the best summation of Frank Ocean’s approach to artistry.

    For Frank and Andre, who have “stumbled and lived every word” in their songs, pure artistic expression is its own reward. Both men have carved out careers filled with bursts of brilliant creativity and long absences, and have lived intensely private lives outside the spotlight. And now, Frank Ocean has created a modern masterpiece that can stand tall with the best works of Outkast and others.
    Full Review »