Frank Ocean's 'Blonde': 10 MVPs Who Contributed to the Album
When Frank Ocean returned after a four-year hiatus with his Endless visual album, he followed up with the real comeback album -- his highly anticipated album, Blonde. While the set contains 17 meticulously crafted tracks, Ocean didn't tackle the studio effort solo.
He enlisted the help of multiple artists, both big-name and under-the-radar, to help make his vast vision a reality. From legendary names to fledgling indie acts, here are 10 eclectic, genre-spanning artists whom Ocean collaborated with on his new studio effort.
In addition to mastering Ocean’s visual album, Endless, Dean grabs a production credit on Blonde. For Dean, collaborating with the visionary is nothing new. as he’s clocked in studio time with everyone from Beyonce (he worked on both Lemonade and her 2013 self-titled album) to Kanye West. Most recently, Dean helped craft a variety of tracks on Desiigner’s mixtape, New English, and is helping Travis Scott finesse his sophomore studio effort, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight.
Lest we forget that long before Pharrell became the "Happy" hitmaker, the superstar cut his teeth in production for many acts across pop, hip-hop and R&B. Credited on the album’s third track "Pink + White" (alongside Odd future’s Tyler, the Creator), Williams also produced three songs on Ocean's 2012 album, Channel Orange. In a 2011 interview with VIBE, Williams’ admiration of Ocean is plain to see.
"Frank Ocean is incredible. To me, he’s a singer-songwriter. We met at Coachella and I told him, ‘Man, I like what you do,' and we wound up working together. He’s super talented. To me, he’s the black James Taylor. He’s lyrical, got a great perspective and super sick melodies. I haven’t seen anybody bob and weave through chords with such catchy melodies in a long time. That’s why I like working with him.”
Lending his vocals to “Self Control,” Yung Lean’s spot on Blonde is a sudden jolt into the mainstream for the 20-year-old rapper. Hailing from Sweden, Lean dropped his first mixtape, Unknown Death 2002, and viral single "Ginseng Strip 2002” in 2013 and has been steadily building a career since. Lean, a master of "cloud rap" (which harps on intense, emotional offerings with ethereal production), fits right in on Ocean’s Blonde, which is soaked in the genre.
One of Blonde’s stand-out tracks is the deliciously meandering "Solo." Here, Ocean sampled singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren’s 1973 track “Flamingo” from his 1973 album, A Wizard, a True Star. One of the most familiar names in classic rock, Rundgren has enjoyed a decades-long career which yielded smash singles like “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light,” as well as an immense discography of production work including Meat Loaf’s landmark album, Bat Out of Hell.
A native of France, 35-year-old DJ SebastiAn (with a capital "A") is the voice of the actual storyteller on Blonde’s track “Facebook Story,” where he also holds a writing and producing credit. Despite not releasing any solo music since 2011, the past few years have seen SebastiAn produce tracks for artists such as Fall Out Boy, crafting their 2014 hit “American Beauty/American Psycho” from the album of the same name. The producer celebrated the release of Blonde with a Facebook post that simply stated, “FRANK’S’ OUT!”
The esteemed English singer-songwriter holds a writing credit on track "White Ferrari," which features Blake. Blake’s contribution is the latest offering in his and Ocean's creative relationship, which began with Blake's acclaimed album,The Colour in Anything. The two teamed up on “My Willing Heart.” When talking to Rolling Stone earlier this year, Blake explained that he became “more of a fan of [Ocean's] when I heard his newer music. It's better. You grow, you improve, you nail a new message to the board. He's had time to mature. It's really cool to watch."
Gospel singer Burrell’s vocals can be heard on the aptly titled “Godspeed." Since releasing her debut album, Try Me Again, in 1995, Burrell has made quite a mark on gospel. In 2011, she was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Gospel Album and a year later, founded the Love & Liberty Fellowship Church in Houston.
The Vampire Weekend frontman adds his producing prowess to the second track off Blonde, dubbed "Ivy." Co-produced with Jamie xx, the track is just the latest song Batmanglij has helped craft for fellow artists, including “Need Ur Love” from Charli XCX’s 2014 album Sucker and two tracks from Ra Ra Riot’s latest, Need Your Love, which dropped earlier this year.
The Fab Four continue to leave an indelible mark on popular music. Ocean uses a 40-year-old track from the band's landmark 1966 album Revolver, "Here, There and Everywhere," on his Blonde track "White Ferrari."
Queen Bey and Ocean go way back. In 2011, he helped write “Miss You” off her album 4, and can be heard on “Superpower” from her self-titled 2013 surprise visual album. On Blonde, Beyonce steps back and takes on the role of background singer, belting out a single line (“Take it easy”) and later harmonizing on the highlight "Pink + White."