After years of false starts and abandoned deadlines, Frank Ocean’s second album, Boys Don’t Cry, will reportedly drop Friday via Apple Music. The album’s release marks the conclusion of a winding journey for one of hip-hop’s most guarded stars, and as a result, fans don’t have much of a reference point for what Ocean’s follow-up to his 2012 masterpiece Channel Orange will sound like.
But details cataloged by Ocean’s loyal following and the few specifics he’s offered in the last four years provide glimpses into what type of a project Boys Don’t Cry may be. Here’s what we know about their long-awaited album.
Boys Don’t Cry — the album — is part of a cross-platform experience.
Since Ocean released Channel Orange, the way artists distribute music has fundamentally changed. The standard-bearer of this is Beyoncé, who has released two “visual” albums, where the graphic component was an essential part of experiencing the art. Surprise album drops have given way to appointment listening, and performers such as Kanye West have experimented with adding other dimensions to their music — in West’s case, zines, fashion shows, and arena-sized premiere events.
It follows that Ocean would employ some of these new ideas: According to the New York Times report detailing Boys Don’t Cry‘s release, the music will be released in tandem with a visual component and a print publication available at Apple stores. And the other mediums might be what Ocean is most interested in, anyway. Shortly after Channel Orange‘s release, he told the Guardian, “I might not make another album. I might just write a novel next.”
It’ll likely be another concept album.
Ocean loves narrative. In 2012, he told the New York Times, “Even though it’s my voice, I’m a storyteller.” Despite being a collection of disparate narratives, a cohesive vision about documenting Americans of all stripes held Channel Orange together. Expect more of the same on Boys Don’t Cry — at least, according to comments Ocean made more than three years ago when speaking to Zane Lowe. “It’s another cohesive thing, bordering on a concept record again,” Ocean told the then-BBC employed radio personality in February 2013.
But it’s anyone’s guess if that’ll hold true from a sonic perspective.
Although it’s sounds were varied, Channel Orange employed a list of collaborators dwarfed by the rosters of West’s The Life of Pablo or Beyoncé’s Lemonade. John Mayer, OutKast’s Andre 3000, and Earl Sweatshirt are featured on the album, and Tyler, the Creator and Pharrell contributed production. But the lion’s share of the work was done by Ocean and James Ryan Ho, the producer better known as Malay.
But Ocean has hinted that the guest list on Boys Don’t Cry could more closely resemble other A-list albums in its breadth. Malay, of course, seems to have played a pivotal role, telling Pitchfork earlier this year that “Frank’s exploring different vibes completely on this album.” In his 2013 BBC interview, Ocean said he was reuniting with Pharrell and preparing to work with Danger Mouse. He reportedly spent time in the studio with Nas, Lil B, and “N—-s in Paris” producer Hit-Boy — and hinted that he’d like to work with King Krule and Tame Impala.
Some of those guests could be true superstars.
When Channel Orange dropped, Ocean was at a transitional point in his career. He had guested on “No Church in the Wild,” the opening track off West and Jay Z’s collaborative album Watch the Throne. But many still saw him as the resident crooner in the Southern California horror-rap collective Odd Future. Since then, he’s made prominent cameos on Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album, West’s Pablo, and, most recently, James Blake’s The Colour In Anything.
Expect a high-quality album.
Speculative? Sure. But top-notch artists have gone out of their way to praise the samples they’ve heard from Boys Don’t Cry. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised, for sure,” Malay said. In a May interview with Complex, Chance the Rapper said Ocean’s new album was “amazing” and that Ocean was “making a masterpiece.” And that same month, Blake told EW that Ocean’s new material “is going to make people very happy.”