Before the release of Blonde, Frank Ocean’s absolutely stunning surprise release (and perhaps one of the most highly anticipated albums in history), I am embarrassed to say that I never took it upon myself to listen to his work, namely, Nostalgia, Ultra, or Channel Orange, his first two albums. Upon listening to the first gorgeous seconds of “Ivy,” I immediately purchased the entirety of Blonde, attempting to achieve the past five years of intrigue, obsession, desire, and anguish that devoted fans underwent in a mere five minutes. Greedy and hungry, I bit at every track, but as a whole, the album remains unfinished due to the sheer beauty of “Ivy,” something that feels, at least in my life, a track that arrived at the most perfect time. Sure, it’s about love, about the struggle for love, something that should feel overdone by now. But here, it feels anguished, frayed, but refusing to fail to thrive, repeatedly painting a sheer, luminescent paint over a forever broken, chipped foundation. Ocean, through the pain and obviously tortured memories, he still says that deep down, it’s “good,” suffocating the word with more weight than was ever necessary. With a voice simultaneously filled with honey and acid, he apologizes, yearns, screams that he and his love aren’t “kids no more,” all resting on loosely fused guitar plucks, not shying away from the ideas of sensitivity and emotion that backs the “boys don’t cry” thesis of Blonde. At its core, “Ivy” is raw, pure, and honest, and for the first time in a long time, feels like a track that remains almost painfully self-aware to the point of an emotional rebirth.
photo courtesy of artist/npr