It's an odd routine, but it's taking shape. Every couple weeks, a little before midnight on the east coast, Twitter starts buzzing about about another new episode of Blonded Radio on Beats 1 and, an hour or so later, after a brilliantly eccentric playlist, we have another new Frank Ocean song. Soon after, there might be a second version, a verse tacked on from a friend. The anticipation, the pay-off, the mystery, and the word "radio" all make it feel charmingly old fashioned, although the mechanism is all brand new. However we think it out, one thing is clear: after years of silence, Frank Ocean is suddenly prolific. And, most importantly, his form is still near-perfect.
Last night, the scene played out again and when it all died down, we had "Lens," a mellow, self-reflexive track that has Frank crooning, auto-tuned at first, calling back to the recently-released "Chanel." There, his guy was "pretty like a girl," now his "girl made him wait 'til the hours of the night." It grows from spare, mellow keys into more tense instrumentation: a pared-down, circling beat, Ocean's own melodies echoing back; there are "smiles" and "sins" on him, but the latter wins out in the end. You can hear the track at the top of the page.
The "Lens" artwork is a callback to Kerry James Marshall's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self." Listen back to Ocean's recent singles, "Biking" and "Chanel," and his brilliant feature alongside the Migos on Calvin Harris's "Slide."
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