Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Ordered Objectively

It may seem impossible, but I’ve managed to objectively rank the songs on Blonde, from worst to best. I understand that music is largely understood to be subjective, but trust me, these are the actual correct rankings.

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Blonde is a masterpiece of an album, without a single dud track, and no fewer than eight songs that could’ve been the highlight on a lesser album. Frank Ocean’s voice, his personality, and his humor shine through on each track, and while the album isn’t a concept album (as far as I can tell), there is still a common sonic thread that ties the whole thing together in an intoxicatingly unique Frank Ocean way. When picking a random song from Blonde to listen to, the range of choice is daunting. Some might go as far as to say it is overwhelmingly paralyzing.

It may seem impossible, but I’ve managed to objectively rank the songs on Blonde, from worst to best. I understand that music is largely understood to be subjective, but trust me, these are the actual correct rankings.

Blonde is an album to soundtrack life, the highs, the lows, and the mom rants. As such, you have likely found yourself listening to Blonde in a variety of circumstances. I am also giving you the objective best situation to listen to each song.

“Isn’t that subjective too, though?”

You may think so, but no.

17. Facebook Story

I like this guy. Ordinarily, I would completely put the blame on this fellow, since if you deny your girlfriend’s Facebook friend request you’re an idiot. But, it sounds like he’s French, which means he gets a pass. I imagine the French are very laissez-faire about social media and find it to be an amusing American vice more than a genuine way of connecting to others, like by smoking at a cafe together in silence. This is obviously the worst song on Blonde because it isn’t much of a song, although it does have that refrain music kinda playing in the background the whole time. The ideal situation to listen to this song is when your partner breaks up with you for not accepting their friend request because this guy gets it.

16. Be Yourself

This non-song gets the slight nudge over “Facebook Story” because it’s so fucking wholesome. Just be secure with yourself! The advice on not using marijuana, unless it’s under doctor’s supervision. It taught me that Weedheads are “sluggish, lazy, stupid, and unconcerned”, which explains why I have such difficulty making DJ write stuff for Washed ™. The ideal situation to listen to this song is probably in the car with your boys when one of them asks if y’all wanna spark. Frank Ocean’s mom’s stern, but secretly warm talking-to will straighten them right up.

15. Pretty Sweet

Of all the tracks on Blonde, this one makes the least sense. It jerks into existence violently after the smooth end to “Solo (Reprise)”, and it keeps jerking around until it concludes. There is an intro segment, a first half segment, a third quarter breakdown, and a child-chorus outro. All things considered, it streams together pretty well, but less so than the rest of the album. It’s honestly that last song I would pick to listen to individually, even counting “Be  Yourself” and “Facebook Story”. But, these rankings are objective – it’s not up to me. The ideal situation to listen to this song is probably when you’re on a lot of drugs leaving a club in Europe late at night because the first part of the song will keep your energy up but then the kid chorus will break your heart and make you reconsider all your life choices.

14. Futura Free

This is the only way this album could have ended, and I don’t know why. It upsets me that Frank Ocean can freestyle a bunch of words that would sound fucking stupid if I sang them but sound profound and lighthearted and omniscient out of his mouth. The last few bars, especially the ones about a fight with Chris Brown, are a fucking power move. I could live without the interview outro, but I don’t really count that. The ideal situation to listen to “Future Free” is when you’re feeling yourself for no reason and feeling like fuck anyone that tells you not to feel yourself for no reason.

13. White Ferrari

This is an amorphous song, but in a good way. It’s like clean white sheets blowing in the breeze, hanging on a clothesline behind the ol’ farmhouse in Kansas or something. If there wasn’t a time indicator attached to it, I would have no idea how long this song is. The outro is fucking gold. The ideal situation to hear this song is when your life is flashing before your eyes and you see every great moment of your life at high speed but you comprehend it all and Frank’s soft voice floats you into the afterlife. This is objective.

12. Close To You

This is the most underrated song on the album (by me – maybe you’ve been on this, but I slept on it). It feels like the black artist version of Bon Iver on “Lost In The World”, which basically means it sounds fucking better. This is also the instrumental I could best see other dope artists thriving on because it’s a dope instrumental. It’s just too short! The ideal situation to listen to “Close To You” is when you’re cruising some city streets in an old school Beamer and one hand is steering, the other is gripping your thigh.

11. Godspeed

“Godspeed” sounds like the good 2016 version of an early-2000s U2 song. Chance the Rapper is the poster boy for feel-good gospel-ish music of today’s age, and rightfully so, but this song speaks to me more than anything Chance has put out. This is Frank Ocean telling us, “Hey, it’s okay you aren’t as talented as me! I will always love, until the day I die.” The ideal situation to listen to “Godspeed” is sitting in the backseat of a car looking out the window on a long roadtrip with close friends and seeing a vast expanse of desert with purple mountains in the background.

10. Good Guy

This song would be ranked higher if it weren’t so short! A glimpse into a world where Frank Ocean gives the world what it wants, not what it needs. This sounds like he recorded it using iPhone headphones on his MacBook just before he ran out the house to go buy milk and somehow the end result is beautiful. This also cuts to the core of what it’s like to spend more time texting someone than being with them, a uniquely 2010s experience. Going over the facts of this song (looks like he is doing no work but is secretly productive, saying “you text nothing like you look”, angstily telling the world you’re unappreciated by today’s hookup culture), it is clear Frank is a god damn Millenial. The ideal situation to listen to “Good Guy” is in an Uber ride home after your hookup said something like “I have this thing really early in the morning so…you should call an Uber. I would but my account is linked to my mom’s credit card and she’d be pissed if I called an Uber at 3 am.”

9. Solo (Reprise)

God damn, Andre Benjamin can still rap. Somehow he manages to call out Drake and other rappers that use ghostwriters without sounding like a geezer! That’s alone is a monumental feat. The lyricism here is probably eye-opening to young people who don’t understand why the Black-Eyed Peas guy from “Hey Ya!” fame is consistently considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. This song is strangely the one from Blonde that is most often stuck in my head, but I’m not complaining. The ideal situation to listen to this song is when you’re scrolling social media and see someone you don’t like reuse your signature joke format on Twitter without attribution – “After 20 years in/I’m so naive I was under the im-/-pression that everyone wrote their own verses/It’s coming back different and yeah that shit hurts me/I’m humming and whistling to those not deserving…”

8. Ivy

The best part of “Ivy” is the way Frank Ocean sounds like the god of vocal cords and then totally fucks with you by running his silk voice through a vocal meat grinder of processing in the outro. Like he shows you he could sing 99% of pop songs better than the original singer and then reminds you he is also an avant-garde artiste. The ideal situation to listen to “Ivy” is when it’s soundtracking a montage of you leaving your old life behind in order to forge your own identity in a sad, but ultimately hopeful and confident way.

7. Skyline To

This song is a grower. The melody is less obvious, and nothing turns me on musically more than being teased for an extended period of time only to be delivered a lengthy and extremely subtle chorus. That isn’t sarcasm. “Summer’s not as long as it usedddd to be”. Damn, Frank, you’re right. The ideal situation to listen to this song is when you’re sitting in your room at night and all of a sudden it’s 5:42 am and “Iiiiiiiiin comes the morrrning, ahhhAHHHHHH!”

6. Solo

This song has the best vocalizing on Blonde. Seriously, just bask in the vocalizing on this song and realize that the vocalizing is only the whipped cream on the meat of the song, which is a disgusting analogy. Imagine a plate full of slimy ham absolutely covered in whipped cream. That’s not what “Solo” sounds like. “Solo” sounds like a human being singing and rapping in the shower, but the pinnacle of that. Like you singing in the shower compared to Frank Ocean singing “Solo” is like me cooking Safeway hamburgers on an electric stove without a shirt compared to Michel Bras cooking souffle in a gold-crusted cauldron (note: Michel Bras is the best chef in the world, according to Le Chef. I don’t know what souffle is or if it can be cooked in a cauldron). As you can imagine, the ideal situation to listen to “Solo” is when you’re in the shower and can sing-along, but your voice is also mostly drowned out by the shower so you think you sound like Frank Ocean more than you really do.

5. Seigfried

“Seigfried” is a marvel of modern songwriting and production. This is the most naked song on the album, self-critical, fearful, non-committal. It’s like after a whole album of sounding superhuman, Frank deigns to remind the audience he is one of us, but in a way you could never hope to be. The first portion of the song feels like considering accepting mediocre suburban life for the remainder of your existence, the “This is not my life” portion is like you taking a lot of designer drugs, the spoken word portion is like the drugs kicking in, and the outro is like waking up after with a new, more French perspective on life. The ideal situation to listen to this song is when you’re attending a black-tie party at an enormous elegant mansion where you don’t know anyone and you’re in the middle of making effervescent eye-contact with a gorgeous human, and before the moment slips through your fingers like sand, you feel true connection.

4. Pink + White

God, this song is sexy. It’s beautiful musically and lyrically, and it features uncredited backing vocals from Beyonce. She doesn’t even upstage him! That’s how good this song is. The ideal situation to play this song is when you wake up and see a stranger in your bed because this song is probably magical to wake up to, it establishes an ambiance of calmness that masks the smell of alcohol streaming from your body, and it shows you have impeccable music taste.

3. Nikes

If the songs on Blonde were people you know, “Nikes” would be your friend that wears sick obscure Japanese streetwear brands and is in the underground street racing circle and had a beautiful girlfriend that died years ago and no one ever talks about it, but you can tell it haunts him, and “Nikes” is all of those things, but in a cool way. “Nikes” would steal your girlfriend but y’all would still be friends because you know he meant no harm. “Nikes” would sell your kids drugs, but in an “expand your mind” way, not a “profit from your addiction” way. The ideal situation to listen to “Nikes” is walking under streetlights at 2 a.m. in an empty city in a cool black jacket. This is objectively correct.

2. Self Control

This is the vocal performance of a generation. Bringing in Yung Lean to sing the most lowkey chorus on the biggest song of the album is a fucking once in a lifetime idea, and it is executed literally perfectly. I hope you all realize this. The ideal situation to listen to this song is when you’re feeling small after a boring day of work/school/life and you feel extremely ordinary and you put headphones in and imagine yourself singing this song at a huge concert (you can also imagine yourself as a backing vocalist if this is too much) and you look across the audience and everyone is weeping and swaying and when you sing “I, I, I, know you gotta leave, leave, leave” in harmony with your backing singers (or as a backing singer, if you dream small) your soul leaves your body and you transcend to a higher plane. This is objective.

1. Nights

“Nights” is a microcosm of everything that makes Blonde great. The attention to detail on the track is incredible. After the beat switch, the main focus is on Ocean’s pitched up voice, but his backing vocals stream around that focal point. It’s weirdly an up-tempo, bright, jangly song and a soul-reaming, night-roaming, existential crisis of a slow-jam. On an album full of impeccable production, harmonization, lyricism, beat switches, up-pitched vocals, power, and vulnerability, this song somehow sits atop the throne. It’s perfect. The ideal situation to listen to this song is after taking a night drive up a mounting and standing at the edge of a cliff overlooking a sparkling city after a long day’s hustle, and you feel like you’re standing on the precipice of greatness, but with one false step, you could lose everything you ever built, cursed to pass into anonymity and disgrace.

“Wow, you’re an idiot!”

Why?

“That’s not the right ordering of songs! I know they’re all really fucking good, like even the ones that are more skit than song, so I’m sure it was hard, but you’re wrong! I even think you’re wrong on the ideal situation to listen to each song! Why are you so fucking in love with listening to Blonde while staring at cities, or fucking dying?

I hear you loud and clear! Message received! The issue is that you are, in fact, the idiot. These are not my personal rankings. Those aren’t my personal ideal situations. These are objective. They are factual. You can look them up. To deny facts is to be an idiot. I worked hard on checking my sources one, two, three times over. This is correct. That being said, you can’t go wrong with any song in any situation on Blonde. It’s really fucking good.

By Jake Ramirez

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