Last month, Frank Ocean released his single “DHL,” marking his first original track since dropping “Provider” in August 2017. This noteworthy release came just days after Frank Ocean announced he would be releasing two new singles, “Cayendo” and “Dear April” on vinyl through his website, Blonded.co. On his Youtube page, short clips were released of the two new singles being previewed at PrEP+, Frank’s new controversial queer nightclub in New York City.
Taking to Tumblr to address concerns over the nightclub, named after an HIV prevention drug, Ocean explained that he started the club in order to imagine what 70s and 80s nightlife would have been like if the drug had been widely available and so many lives weren’t lost to the AIDS epidemic. He stated in the post: "I’m an artist, it’s core to my job to imagine realities that don’t necessarily exist and it’s a joy to."
Between his new nightclub series and previewing new singles, Frank Ocean has been busy re–emerging into the music world after his relative inactivity. Just two weeks after releasing “DHL”, he dropped another single, “In My Room.” Although he hasn’t formally announced a follow–up to his album, “Blonde,” his two newest full singles demonstrate a possible new direction for the artist.
The first of these singles, “DHL” is distinctly distorted and woozy, featuring distorted vocals and echoing synths. Ocean largely relies on his rap skills on the track that turns almost chant–like by the end. The production is noticeably similar to that of A$AP Rocky, who Frank Ocean has collaborated with in the past, most recently on A$AP’s Rocky’s “Purity” from the 2018 album TESTING. The similar sound is unsurprising considering it was co–produced by Boyz Noize, who also recently produced A$AP Rocky’s latest release “Babushka Boi.”
The cryptic lyrics of “DHL” are carefree and self–assured, a change from the artist known for his emotional and meditative lines. Singing about Ubers and Starbucks, the song is a clubby track compared to his earlier works, likely made with his new nightclub venture in mind.
In his second single, "In My Room," Frank continues to experiment with his sound, mixing intriguing instrumentals with an unconventional song structure. In an interview with W Magazine in late September, Frank Ocean stated that he's been recently inspired by nightlife music scenes, citing, "Detroit, Chicago, techno, house, French electronic." These varying influences come through on the track, creating music that's hard not to dance to.
Over a catchy beat, Frank zooms through lines about love and fame, before the track dramatically shifts to reveal his angelic, unaltered singing voice; Frank repeats the line, “Quit being violent with me” before admitting the confession, “you make me violent.” The lines reveal a vulnerability that feels like a warm and familiar return to the sounds of Blonde.
In the outro, Frank leans into this emotional sensitivity before packing in the last lines “I guess I can’t state my feelings too soon/ I don’t know you/ And I can’t put no threats in the air.” At just over two minutes long, the song gives just a small preview to Frank Ocean’s raw vocals and poetic lyricism, leaving the listener wanting more. Frank Ocean's return balances the iconic music that launched him to legend status with new experimental influences, and has set the stage for a brand new era of his work.