On August 19, Frank Ocean dropped a 45-minute visual album and a beautiful video for the track Nikes directed by Tyrone Lebon. The following day, he released his much-anticipated second album Blond (also referred to as Blonde), giving copies away for free at pop-up stores in London, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The album was given out with a magazine titled Boys Don’t Cry, which featured a poem by Kanye West, contributions from Wolfgang Tillmans, Lebon, Tom Sachs and Viviane Sassen and typography from London studio Zak Group.
The cover of Blond features a compelling image shot by Tillmans – one that is just as striking in digital format as it is on a record sleeve. (The album was released on vinyl through XL for Black Friday).
Tillmans shot the image for the tenth anniversary issue of Fantastic Man – speaking to Pitchfork, he said Ocean drove to Berlin to meet him and the pair went clubbing at legendary nightclub Berghain. Just a couple of weeks after the shoot, however, the musician sent a letter barring Fantastic Man from using the pictures. “It was a huge disappointment and very unfair, but we stayed in touch and he later wanted to use images for his book to accompany a future album,” Tillmans told Pitchfork.
It’s a suitably enigmatic image for one of music’s most elusive artists. The album was one of the most talked about of the year – not just because of the music but also its unusual release and the wealth of visual creative produced around it.