What to know about Frank Ocean's 'Endless:' collaborators, covers, inspiration and more
Friday morning, the elusive Frank Ocean finally returned to our lives with new music. Fans stayed up to the wee hours of the morning dissecting the 45-minute visual album Endless, a compilation of 18 tracks played over a remixed version of Ocean's previously livestreamed spiral staircase construction project.
The album is an Apple Music exclusive, with countless hidden gems interspersed throughout: collaborations with Jonny Greenwood, Jazmine Sullivan, Sampha, Arca and Alex G, alongside a slew of new, notable musical influences.
Rumors and reports of the details surrounding Ocean's latest mystery projects have been trickling out throughout his four-year-silence: he was recording at the iconic Abbey Road studios in London with producers like Rick Rubin; he was inspired by contemporary art and architecture.
All the while, his ever-growing impalpability turned the waiting period into one of the most tumultuous fandom phenomena in recent history.
The current end result is an 18-track album, with the key word being "current." This may only the beginning of a coming flood of Frank Ocean content. Reports now indicate Endless could very well be the prelude to a bigger, more formal project: the long-awaited album titled Boys Don't Cry, which might not surface with that name. It could arrive as early as this weekend. There's also a rumored Frank Ocean novel, a magazine, a clothing line — the list goes on.
For an artist who might seem to have his head in the clouds from the outside, those who have worked with him on his latest music say he's actually quite focused.
"The guy is smart," French pianist Christophe Chassol told the Washington Post in an interview about what it was like working with Ocean at Abbey Road. "He's really smart. The way he works in the studio is really cool.
"He has a printer, he has a lot of pictures of architecture, contemporary art, a lot of pictures of different kinds of things. So we start to work on a track and he says, this track is this — that car that you can see," Chassol continued.
"I've never worked with that much money in music. It's good sometimes to have money, because you can try things."
At this point, the album can only be listened to in its visual form, as one continuous 45-minute stream. It still has individual tracks, however. Below is the tracklist, along with each song's relative starting time stamp in the stream.
1. "Device Control" :30-:50
The ethereal drill-infused R&B songs bring together a range of contributors from R&B, rock and experimental electronic music. Here's who else you're hearing on Ocean's new tracks:
The 29-year-old R&B Missy Elliott prodigy appears on a number of tracks for Endless, providing vocals for "Alabama," "Wither" and "Hublots." Sullivan knows a thing or two about taking a pause from music's limelight. The singer took her own four-year sabbatical, stepping back from music in 2011 to return in 2015 with Reality Show. That album earned her a Grammy and a mainstay position in R&B.
The Philadelphia-based, multi-instrumentalist is credited for the guitar rhythms on "Slide on Me," "Wither," and "Rushes." Much like Ocean, Alex G got his start in the music industry with a series of online DIY releases.
The rising R&B artist lent his voice on "Alabama" along with Sullivan. His soft vocals are becoming recognizable in the industry as he continues to work side-by-side with some of the greats, including Drake, SBTRKT and now Ocean.
The London-based, Venezuelan producer has a programming credit for "Mine." The avant-garde artist has been a longtime collaborator for other industry mainstays, including Björk and Kanye West.
Radiohead's lead guitarist and keyboardist is listed as a string orchestrator for "At Your Best (You Are Love)." The track is Ocean's praised rendition of the Isley Brothers' "At Your Best," inspired by Aaliyah's classic remake of the song and originally released on the deceased R&B artist's 36th birthday.
This is still only the beginning. There are still rumored contributions from Lil B and Depeche Mode that have yet to surface. If the project formerly known as Boys Don't Cry is still actually on the way, there will likely be a lot more to explore before long. Ocean season is upon us.