When I was first discovering Frank Ocean at 16, my progression went Blonde first then Channel Orange, singles like DHL then, Nostalgia Ultra and then not much for quite a while. Although I had his music on repeat, possibly to an unhealthy level, I wasn’t as chronically online or interested in the music industry at that point. It was only when a flatmate of mine showed me Rushes that I realised I hadn’t experienced half of his story. The whole Endless album, the, reportedly, 20 million dollar label finesse and the bizarre staircase building segment made Endless feel like a commodity to satisfy contracts, or at the very best the loose ends and extras left off Blonde. In some ways I understand this but I think if Endless is just the extras, these leftovers tell just as compelling a story as Blonde itself.
The idea that Blonde wasn’t part of Frank Ocean’s “real” discography was not only the sentiment of the video essays I’d see online but also of my friends. A lot of them who considered themselves fans had not listened to the album. I think because of the record label shenanigans, it was almost considered not authentic Frank.
When I listened to it I got a totally different perspective. To me Blonde and Endless are two sides of the same coin. Blonde takes individual moments and emotions to elevate them whereas Endless focuses on the day to day emotions and loneliness of the silence in between. The long meandering thoughts and insecurities that come before and after the melancholic highs and lows of Blonde. Something about songs like Alabama feel more like internal thoughts, the repetition of phrases like “what can I do to love you better” feels less like a question asked out loud and more like an anxious partner working out in their head how to win someone they love back. Again, making Endless feel like the long silences between songs on Blonde. This idea of emphasising the silence is seen again on Higgs, a song about watching back on an old relationship both emotionally and physically. It’s not about interaction but it’s all about the thoughts and memories.
Even Frank’s drugged out confident rapping style we’ve seen on DHL and Little Demon is more gentle here, a comparative track like Unity has moments of sadness in it too, like “on my lonely burst in tears.” Although the vibe of the song is too confident to acknowledge lyrics like that, they’re still beneath the surface at all times on this record.
I do understand when people say that Endless is the least polished package out of all of the Frank Ocean albums we’ve seen, but that’s not a negative. I think that makes it uniquely purposed to help you interpret the real day to day emotions of life in a way very few projects can.