By Charlie Gstalder | Staff Writer
It started quietly with a W Magazine interview in late September. He spoke of his reclusively, his fondness for underwater laps and most notably that he had been making club style music. Then, in mid-October, an announcement: an event at a Manhattan club. On Oct. 19, merch appeared on his website: a few shirts and two 7” vinyls of unreleased songs. Within a few hours, Beats 1 Radio began airing the eighth episode of his radio show. Music from a variety of artists played, then a singular new song. By that night it was clear. Frank Ocean was back.
Frank Ocean chooses to be an enigma. You’re not going to see him walking on the street or hear about anything he’s done in the news. No one is ever certain what country he is in or what company he keeps. His Instagram page is vague, and the comments are restricted. He first disappeared after releasing 2012’s Chanel Orange to great critical acclaim. For four years after, the world heard almost nothing from him. Then in 2016, he slowly began to reappear; he posted on his blog, gave some interviews and teased a new project. In August of 2016, he released a visual album titled Endless. One day later, his second full length album, Blonde, was released. Then came a zine, a brief tour and some merch. After that, Frank disappeared again. The last time that Frank Ocean singles were released was 2017. Since then there had been nothing- until this month.
Of the released t-shirts, one reads “Blonded,” a reference to his label. The other reads “PrEP+” a reference to an HIV prevention drug and the name given to his Manhattan Club events. The two vinyls appear to contain a song and a remix. The newly released track is titled “DHL.”
On “DHL” Frank combines rapping and singing over a beat reminiscent of U.K. club music. As far as subject matter is concerned, “DHL” is a standard Frank Ocean song. The track’s introduction references unrequited love, a theme prevalent throughout all of Frank’s discography. Verse 1 is largely melodic and it lacks in substance but sets up the rest of the track well. The chorus is about DHL, a German shipping company that Frank has expressed an affinity towards. Verse 2 sees Frank discussing unreleased music, fashion, money, drugs and male love interests. Most notably, the phrase “sounds like it’s coming soon, coming soon” runs throughout the track and may hint at the future release of more songs.
The true significance of Frank Ocean’s return lies not in merch or song, but rather in the prospect of a new album. Because of the four year wait between his first and second studio albums, many believe that a new project will be released in 2020, four years from Blonde’s release year. Since new music was released close to the end of 2019, a 2020 album seems even more likely.
Further contributing to the possibility of an album is the creation of a new tagline. Prior to the release of Blonde, the phrase “Boys Don’t Cry” began appearing on Frank’s websites and was rumored to be the title of the album. Now, instead of “Boys Don’t Cry,” the top of Frank’s website states “Look at us, we’re in love.” This phrase was also repeated multiple times by Frank may reference his new album’s theme. However, it will most likely be a while before we know for sure.