Now that we have Frank Ocean’s Blonde in our hands, it feels like an emotional forever ago (read: an eternity in four days) when we were watching his “visual album” Endless and wondering where the real album was, the Boys Don’t Cry album Ocean teased last summer. Well, Boys Don’t Cry became Blonde and it turns out Endless became the artist’s final contractual obligation to his now former label, Def Jam. FADER reported the news earlier today, and a source “close to the situation” reportedly told Pitchfork that Endless “fulfills Frank’s obligations to Def Jam and Universal,” which left him free to release the main event album independently. As Pitchfork points out, “While the credits at the end of Endless name Def Jam, the metadata on Blonde simply credits ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ which is also the title of Ocean’s new magazine.” So even though that staircase didn’t look like it was going anywhere, it was actually Ocean’s path to freedom. Or something deeply meaningful like that. It's also being reported that Universal Music Group, which owns Def Jam, "is discontinuing exclusive releases to streaming services such as Apple Music, TIDAL, and Spotify," which makes it sound like Ocean's shady but effective business strategy really managed to piss off some high level people at UMG. Not a bad way to burst back onto the music scene, Frank!
Frank Ocean may be a master of mystery, but he is also a millennial — and what millennial can resist oversharing in list format? Ocean's Boys Don't Cry zine is many things — a book of fashion, cars, poetry, McDonald's ads — but above all it's an expansive look inside his mind, including the art he cherishes most. In it, Ocean listed both his favorite songs and films, which is essentially his way of saying, "Goddamn, I'm dope." (We know, Frank.) Of course, his taste is impeccable; of course, Stanley Kubrick's all over it; of course, so are most of Blonde's collaborators and inspirations (James Blake, the Beatles, Kim Burrell, Alex G, Daft Punk, the Cure); and, of course, someone already put whichever of the songs are available on Spotify in a handy playlist for you. Dive into both lists, below.
Summer ends, but emo lasts forever. Are you sitting down? Good: American Football are back! After 17 years of obvious regret, the Illinois emo unicorns have announced they're putting out a new album on October 21, and just like their one and only other LP from 1999, it'll be self-titled. The massively influential band reunited in 2014 for some shows and have been teasing something for days; now, it's for sure all happening. Why'd they have to leave so soon all those years ago? They just got soooo lost for sooooo long, as lamented in aching detail on their first song in nearly two decades, "I've Been Lost for So Long," which more or less puts the blame on us for foolishly waiting: "You can't trust a man who can't find his way home." Ugh, so what else is new?
Are you happy? Would you give up life as you know it to zip back to some idyllic teen summer and laze on the arm of a sorely missed first love? These questions salt the bedrock of Frank Ocean’s work, from the Coachella romance of “Novacane,” breakthrough single from a mixtape literally titled Nostalgia, Ultra, to Channel Orange, an album of brokenhearted reminiscences set in motion by a PlayStation firing up a game of Street Fighter. On record, Ocean is constantly questioning whether or not his best life lies in his rearview, fretful that some burnt bridge or wrong turn has quietly and imperceptibly wrecked everything. The trip from adolescence into adulthood is the forest of these fears, of forked roads to possible futures that dissolve the instant you set about a specific path. Frank Ocean lives haunted by the possibilities.
Dan Auerbach Being Sued by the Producers of a Howlin’ Wolf Documentary for Failing to Fulfill Contractual DemandsBy Jordan Crucchiola
Dan Auerbach is being taken to court. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a lawsuit was filed last week against the Black Keys front man by Smokestack Lightning Inc. alleging that Auerbach failed to fulfill his contractual obligations to their documentary, Smokestack Lightning: The Legendary Howlin' Wolf. As the title suggests, the film focuses on blues legend Chester Arthur Burnett, better known as Howlin’ Wolf, and after Auerbach contributed an interview to the film, Smokestack asked him to come onboard as a fellow producer and also as director. THR says that according to the suit, “Auerbach verbally agreed that he would take control of the project in exchange for 9 percent of the profits and one major caveat: he would have complete creative control of the film, which was in post-production when the deal was made.” Smokestack claims that after the verbal agreement, Auerbach demanded “material alterations and vast expansions to the then existing picture” that included reshooting completed interviews, as well as filming new ones, purchasing the rights to additional copyrighted images, taking on a new writer, and “use of an entirely new camera and filming format.” The production company says it complied with Auerbach’s requests, because he allegedly threatened to walk if they expressed “even a modicum of discomfort.” But then, Auerbach quit anyway and left Smokehouse holding the bill for everything he changed — allegedly. As a result, Smokestack is seeking payment for damages and at least $100,000 in restitution. Auerbach has yet to comment on the lawsuit.
If you’ve ever listened to the Demi Lovato song “Stars” and thought it sounded a little familiar, you might be right. Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller of the band Sleigh Bells filed a complaint in California federal court on Monday that alleges Lovato’s track from her most recent album, Confident, borrowed from the indie band without asking first. “On information and belief it is alleged that ‘Stars’ includes compositional elements taken from Sleigh Bells’ song ‘Infinity Guitars,’” the document reads. “A comparison of the two songs reveals that, at the very least, the combination of the hand claps and bass drum, structured as 3 quarter beats and a rest, with the bass drum providing a counter-rhythm to the hand claps, is at least substantially similar in both works. This infringing material repeats throughout the Defendants’ song.” In summary, Krauss and Miller’s team asserts that the similarities between the songs “transcend the realm of coincidence or shared generic material, and inform the very essence of the works.” If the court finds merit in the complaint from Sleigh Bells, the band is requesting $150,000, the maximum allowable amount to be paid in damages, recuperated legal fees, and “a permanent injunction prohibiting the reproduction, distribution, sale, public performance or other use or exploitation of ‘Infinity Guitars’ by Defendants.” Last year, Lovato’s producers on Confident denied using the samples after members of Sleigh Bells publicly called the singer out on Twitter for allegedly swiping material from “Infinity Guitars,” as well as their song “Riot Rhythm.” Those producers also said that Lovato herself was not involved with the production of the songs.
Most of us non-famous people spend our birthdays with a couple handfuls of people, on a good year. But James Corden, friend to all, does nothing low-key. He spent his 38th birthday eve with four friends and, oh, you know, 90,000 randoms. Coldplay invited their missing fifth member and Chris Martin's former carpool karaoke chauffeur onstage at the Rose Bowl on Sunday to perform "Nothing Compares 2 U" for the night's Prince tribute (as they've been doing all tour). This time, there were no cars or bikes required — just James & Co., a stage, and some birthday cake. Never before has a grown man been so overcome with glee as James Corden being sung "Happy Birthday" by a chorus of thousands.
Taylor Swift isn't the only celebrity stepping up to help victims of this month's Louisiana floods, which have displaced 40,000 people from their homes. On Monday Britney Spears, who grew up in Kentwood, Louisiana, announced a Crowdrise campaign to raffle off the dress she wears at this year's MTV VMAs to fund Red Cross relief efforts in the state. Another raffle winner will win a trip to Sunday's ceremony, complete with a meet-and-greet with Spears. You can donate here to enter.
Not to be outdone, Ryan Murphy and the cast of Scream Queens, which shoots in the state, have partnered with 20th Century Fox to raise money to benefit the Louisiana Association of United Ways’ Flood Fund. Fox has donated $100,000, and has started a charity drive among its employees to raise more, while Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd, and Emma Roberts recorded a PSA encouraging viewers to text donations to the fund.
It appears summer '16 will wind down with yet another new No. 1: Less than a month after its debut, the Chainsmokers and Halsey's "Closer" has made it to the top of this week's Billboard Hot 100. It's the first No. 1 for both the singer and the EDM duo, though the latter have been hanging out in the Top 10 throughout the warmer months, with Song of Summer contender "Don't Let Me Down" peaking so far at No. 3. Together, they've now knocked Sia's "Cheap Thrills" from its throne after it ruled for four weeks, previously unseating Drake's "One Dance" (now down to No. 7). "Closer" was the most-streamed song in the country last week, meaning America's teens have once again proven that the power of fandom is not to be doubted. Speaking of which: Justin Bieber and Major Lazer's "Cold Water" has been knocked down to No. 3 after debuting at No. 2, so it might just be about that time for Biebs to get back in the Beliebers' good graces.
If you've played Frank Ocean's visual album Endless all the way through, you probably noticed it's bookended by the same robotic, techno-y spoken-word pieces. They're the work of German visual artist Wolfgang Tillmans, who, as he explained on Instagram, originally thought Frank Ocean meant only to sample his song "Device Control" on the intro, but instead found out like everyone else last night that the full thing made the album on the outro, "Higgs." And while Tillmans isn't complaining about having his unreleased song used on one of the year's most anticipated projects (without proper credit on that outro), it turns out actually working with Ocean was exactly the headache you'd assume.
Speaking with Pitchfork, Tillmans says he first met Ocean on a photo shoot for men's fashion magazine Fantastic Man, which Ocean had bailed on last minute several times. Then, after Ocean finally showed up for the shoot in Berlin and the two went clubbing, he apparently pulled a 180 on everyone and decided to keep the photos for himself. "All seemed well, but a couple weeks later Fantastic Man got a letter from his lawyers in Los Angeles barring them for using the pictures," Tillmans said. "It was a huge disappointment and felt very unfair, but we stayed in touch and he later wanted to use images for his book to accompany a future album."
Frank Ocean has always been admirably frank about his sexuality in his work — be it Tumblr prose, through his music, or even now in poetry. And in one of the many original pieces from his limited-edition (for now!) Boys Don't Cry zine — which included Kanye's love letter to McDonald's — Ocean has included a poem titled "Boyfriend." Much like his essay on car culture, which questioned whether or not his fixation on automobiles is rooted in a "deep subconscious straight boy fantasy," it beautifully considers the idea of a male partner through both a personal and societal lens. "I could say that I'm happy they let me and my boyfriend become married," he writes of the Supreme Court decision. "But cross my heart I didn't notice. Hope to die no never, we voted." So, yeah, what was that about not crying?
Because releasing Lemonade simply wasn't enough, over the weekend, Beyoncé took to her website for a mass content dump of behind-the-scenes photos from the making of the Emmy-nominated film portion of her visual album Lemonade. If you thought the visuals themselves were stunning, just get a load of the frozen moments (some NSFW). All of them belong in a gallery, but the one above deserves to be hung in the Smithsonian. Here is Queen Bey on the set of "Hold Up" in her instantly iconic yellow gown and added traditional Mardis Gras Indian dressage while holding up a "Boycott Beyoncé" sign. It's, of course, a reference to the backlash she received after releasing "Formation" (and her subsequent merch), a video that arrived two months before Lemonade. Meaning either Beyoncé filmed "Hold Up" after the "Formation" brouhaha or she had enough foresight to know she'd eventually have to twirl on her haters.
Operating under the assumption that pop-culture nostalgia repeats itself in 20-year cycles (as evidenced by the return of those crappy black plastic chokers everyone bought at Claire’s), it’s only a few years until everyone remembers the excellence of Jimmy Eat World. So to jog your memory, here is their new single “Get Right” from the band’s upcoming album, due out October 21. It'll take you back to a period in time when a pop song could say "everything, everything will be all right" in total earnestness and you completely believed it.
Okay, so technically Drake's reason for being in Philadelphia on a Sunday night was to perform at his and Future's Summer Sixteen tour stop in Pennsylvania. But we all know his true purpose for stepping across enemy lines: to disembowel his go-to sparring partner on his home turf. Not since Drake and Meek Mill's infinite beef began last summer had Drake set foot in Philly, but when he did, he certainly made his presence known. "You not really from Philly and they can tell," Drake fired off his first warning shot in altered lyrics to "Still Here," as if to personally deport Meek from his own city.
Painkillers found in Prince's Paisley Park home labeled as hydrocodone — the opioid found in Vicodin — were found to actually contain the much stronger narcotic fentanyl, the Star Tribune reports. According to autopsy results released in June, Prince died of an overdose of fentanyl, for which he did not have a prescription; now investigators reportedly suspect Prince did not know the pills were mislabeled. If so, that would make him the latest victim of what the Drug Enforcement Administration has called a wave of "hundreds of thousands of counterfeit prescription pills" on the black market, many of which "often closely resemble the authentic medications they were designed to mimic."
Another day, another Frank Ocean album: After many months of making needy fans hold their breath (and making editors and music writers hold their breath who, if not for their job, would have been perfectly fine with a release whenever, really), the young wizard of left-field pop unbound by genre distinctions released two collections in as many days. Both the “visual album” Endless and the album proper Blonde are extensions of their author’s mellow sensibility. Yet while Endless seems to lengthen the strain of lovelorn melancholy that’s been dominant in the artist’s work since his debut, Blonde marks a genuine departure: It’s far and away the happiest Frank Ocean collection ever committed to wax. Instead of being accentuated by their extreme contrast with deep, vivid orange, Frank’s native blues and blackness are framed by a full spectrum of hues: pink and mauve synthscapes, summer green, and gold guitars — and no small amount of whiteness. Frank’s never been big on antagonism, racial or otherwise. In his universe, there are no evil people, just people with differing motives and levels of indifference. So it’s not really a surprise to behold him absorbing sounds, styles, and people typically associated with whiteness and white people with the same loose, offhanded deftness with which he affirms his continuity with black culture and history. Here’s a brief guide to the whiter aspects of his varicolored album.
Rapper Drake posed with President Underwood yesterday while the two enjoyed a powwow in Washington, D.C. The visit was likely a much-needed respite for Drake, who is currently in the midst of his Summer Sixteen Tour, as well as for the president, who is presently waging an all-out scorched earth war against terror. One can only guess what topics the pair discussed! In unrelated news, later that evening, Drake was hurled in front of a steamroller under mysterious circumstances.
Frank Ocean Drops the Music Video for ‘Nikes,’ and Yeah, Looks Like This Is All Going to Be Worth the WaitBy Halle Kiefer
Following the release of his visual album, Endless, this week, most fans presumed/hoped/prayed that Frank Ocean’s actual album, which may or may not be called Boys Don’t Cry, would follow immediately after. After all this time, why would you expect Frank Ocean to do what you expect him to do? Extremely early today, the rapper dropped a video for a new track titled “Nikes” on Apple Music and YouTube. Between the glitter, tender nudity, self-immolation, and references to victims of gun violence including Trayvon Martin, “Nikes” feels like 2016 in a nutshell. Honestly, at this point, Frank should take all the time he needs. He clearly knows exactly what he’s doing.
In a year in which Tidal slipped up and leaked the new Rihanna album Anti, and Kanye West staged a Madison Square Garden fashion show and release party for The Life of Pablo, an album he hadn’t quite finished, Frank Ocean seems like an unlikely candidate to have the year’s most unusual album launch. And yet the weeks of questions that presaged the release of last night’s visual album Endless have somehow managed to surpass Pablo, Anti, and even Beyoncé’s HBO Lemonade in creating mass, unbridled confusion. Intentionally or not, the weeks-long, Apple Music–streamed carpentry exercise that culminated in Frank building and ascending a set of spiral stairs in time for the Endless drop was a patient deconstruction of a fan thirst that had grown acrid.
Whatever thoughts you might have on the album Frank Ocean released last night, it seems doubtful that Ah yes, just as expected is among them. For one thing, the album's not really an album: It's the score to a 45-minute black-and-white video of Frank using power tools to build a staircase. As a couple of interludes subtitled "Ambience" suggest, the music isn't the sort of thing you can focus on. Endless is a loose creation, a patchwork quilt of themes, genres, and tones with little to unite them beyond the fact that Frank Ocean says it's all one thing: The album is, effectively, a mixtape soldered to a video cut to the same duration of time.
How to talk about it, then? (Metaphors will only carry you so far, especially in music writing.) Let's say that Endless is not a collection of the sort that could be meaningfully assessed in a standard review format — it's too scattered and impressionistic to withstand the eye of objective scrutiny. Far better to play along with the thing; if it's little more than an odds-and-ends collection, why not review it in an odds-and-ends format? Here's a laundry list of fleeting takes regarding a fleeting (but beautiful) series of songs.
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