Frank Ocean - "Nostalgia, ULTRA" review
September is a strange one. Most of us are back to work and summer days are numbered. The days get a bit fresher and the first leaves are falling, but on the other hand, life is blossoming in our cities after what felt like an extended period of hibernation. All of this conjures feelings of nostalgia, and that may explain our choice for this month’s review: Frank Ocean’s debut mixtape “Nostalgia, ULTRA”.
Picture this, 10 years ago a 23-year-old Frank Ocean drops his debut album on Tumblr after penning tracks for the likes of Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy. This caused quite a stir since he was signed on to Def Jam, who ignored his lyrical prowess prompting him to become the singer we all know and love him to be. Ocean’s relaxed music and use of introspective themes, paired with catchy R&B beats, is a breath of fresh air and an ode to the surreal.
With the interludes being actual cassette tape sounds, you feel as if this is a personal mixtape and a unique experience dedicated to you personally. To add to the blast from the past feelings, each of these interludes is named after an old video game (Street Fighter, Goldeneye, and Soul Calibur), further pulling you into a time capsule.. Does “Strawberry Swing” sound familiar? This is Ocean’s take on the iconic Coldplay song (yet another ode to simpler times). The album is a treasure trove of these nuggets, including the instrumental samples of MGMT in “Nature Feels”, the Eagles in “American Wedding” and Mr Hudson in “There Will Be Tears”.
Starting off this adventure with “Strawberry Swing”, Ocean makes it clear that he won’t hold back with the emotions: “But you should know, you should hear / That I have loved / I have loved the good times here / And I will miss our good times here”. Yet although this album starts dedicated to a sense of longing, it evolves into a poetic release from history and a step into the future with “Dust”. The song conveys the important message that even though we may not be proud of some of the books we’ve written in our metaphorical ‘library’ we nonetheless have to “keeping writing, yeah / and keep living, yeah / and keep loving”.
This album was the first piece in the Frank Ocean puzzle. By introducing the public to what, back then, was a very new way of doing R&B, he redrew the lines of music genres and smashed archetypes and clichés. This iconic album kick-started a phenomenon, keeping us on the edge of our seats with every album Ocean drops. From Channel Orange’s “Lost” to his most recent Blonde’s “Godspeed,” Frank Ocean is a friendly ghost that continues to transform as an artist and change the face of R&B as we know it.
Image credits: Dave Gold, CC BY-SA 2.0