Frank Ocean’s 45-minute black and white visual album, “Endless,” released Aug. 19 shows Ocean’s true artistic capability. The cinematography in Ocean’s album reflects his appreciation for the creative process, allowing viewers to comprehend his musical techniques and not just the final product.
Ocean was the executive producer, director and creative director of the album, and coincidentally, the visual album features multiple likenesses of himself. It begins with one Ocean look-alike preparing to construct the spiral staircase, and then two more Ocean look-alikes enter the frame. These look-alikes never interact — they individually work to mutually build a spiral staircase in an unnamed warehouse. In the background, Ocean’s new songs play delicately. Eighteen songs are listed in the brand new release, including “Wither,” “Slide on Me,” “Sideways,” “Mine” and “Higgs.” He collaborated with several artists for this project, including singer-songwriter Alex G, producer Arca, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, vocalist Jazmine Sullivan and vocalist Sampha.
The visual album resembles a stream of videos from Ocean released on his website boysdontcry.co. With those releases, the album was presumed to be called “Boys Don’t Cry.” There was media frenzy around the album, but Ocean did not make a big spectacle of his release.
With the release of “Endless,” Ocean proved to be unpredictable — a departure from his previous, standard digital albums.
At the climax of “Endless,” two Ocean look-alikes stack the blocks that they had build to construct the spiral staircase. Once the staircase is complete, Ocean’s “Slide on Me” plays, and the camera closes in on his feet as he ascends.
The black and white contrast allows for his audience to not solely focus on the character’s actions, but on the blend between the audio and their actions. Ocean had no need for bright colors, flashy costumes or extravagant dance moves. He made a powerful and creative art form without the techniques that many artists believe are necessary to get the attention of their audience. His simplistic and hauntingly beautiful approach adheres to the reflective side of his audience, ultimately making a statement that there is so much more to music than just flashy dance moves.
There are so many expectations in the music industry about releases, videos and appropriate behavior. Listeners would expect that Ocean would follow these rules to be a success in the industry. However, his actions break down the house rules. Ocean waited to release “Endless” so his audience would be more responsive.
Ocean’s 45-minute film gives viewers more than expected. With a combination of mesmerizing lyrics and several look-alikes, he presents himself as prodigal and self-aware. Under the limelight, it’s difficult for artists to remain down-to-earth. He reminds viewers that they should take a step back, stop admiring the finished product as a flashy object, and consider every step that has led the artist to fame – which speaks to the kind of artist he is.
Frank Ocean’s visual album is only available through Apple Music.