Scholastic Award Winner: Blonde Blonde Scholastic Gold Key Winner in Critical Essay By VSA Student, Grade 9 Inward: How will the song begin? Outward: Without an instrumental introduction or preview, Frank Ocean plunges into his musical masterpiece, the lyrics hitting listeners’ ears first. His smooth, resonating voice blends with the quiet background instrumental, and creates a crisp, clear sound pleasant to listen to. Bad luck to talk on these rides. Mind on the road, your dilated eyes watch the clouds float. “Rides” and “road” indicate a drive, but “dilated eyes” insinuates a more provocative meaning. Frank drives with his lover, their heads in the clouds. Intoxicated with drugs or not, they are truly happy. Frank spent his life obsessed with cars. White Ferrari, had a good time… His obsession was his cliche, as he wrote in an essay for Boys Don’t Cry magazine. Inward: I didn’t really enjoy “White Ferrari” on first listen. Where was the melody? The beat? The rhythm? Frank song structure in “White Ferrari” was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It was raw and different. And what in the world was his deal with cars? What did a white Ferrari have to do with love or happiness or any of those other subjects songs are usually about? It felt like he was just saying “white Ferrari” to sound random and different, not because the words held any real meaning. I clicked off the song. Outward: Months later, I searched my Spotify recommended playlist for songs to listen to in the shower. As the water ran, I scrolled, uninterested in the repetitive nature of my playlist. There was nothing wrong with my playlist. My songs were great, all equipped with a catchy chorus, repetitive verses, and a memorable melody. But I was tired of them. My finger lingered on “White Ferrari.” Should I give it another try? The song’s familiar intro played, and I stepped under the running water. Inward: I noticed myself floating, as I closed my eyes, letting the water hit my head repeatedly. I felt light. Euphoric. Almost as if I was exactly where Frank was in the beginning of his song, high off of happiness with his beau, driving on the road in a white Ferrari. Outward: The song continues. The background music gets louder and other voices join in…until it quiets down again. He sings about his everlasting love for the mystery beau, even after a breakup. I care for you still and I will forever, that was part of my deal, honest. It’s no secret that Frank loves cars. I mean, his song “Acura Integurl” was based on an actual Acura Integra. He even confessed his love for his BMW E30 via Tumblr. Yet “White Ferrari” in the song isn’t about his love for a car so much as it is his love for a person. Inward: I think of objects in my life I feel attached to. Books? Clothes? Food? I wonder how Frank is able to use his love for cars to express his love for a person. I marvel at his ability to connect an inanimate object to such a broad, complicated, abstract topic such as love. The image of a white Ferrari, once so out of place, fits right into my mind. To him, a relationship means a promise of love and devotion, even after it ends. Love means a full-time job for Frank. A flaky, non-serious relationship clearly isn’t the type he prefers. I, having never been in a relationship, debate what type of relationship I’d prefer. A loose, open relationship with no strings attached? Or one where I still have love for the other after it ends? It’s difficult to imagine feelings remaining after a relationship ends. Perhaps after I experience the heartbreak he does in this song, I will. Outward: The last verse of the song comes…and with that, no chorus. In the entire song, there wasn’t a single chorus to remember and sing. The only words that repeated were “White Ferrari” and “familiar.” Another song on Blonde, “Godspeed,” is similar; it does not contain a chorus. The exclusion of something so normal in pop culture seems to be Frank’s songwriting forte. Inward: How could I remember a song with no chorus? With no melody to hum, surely this song would have left my head with a confused (negative) impression, right? I thought so. However, something about the song…perhaps it’s the peaceful melody, the deep lyrics rich with meaning, or the unique setup that makes me want to press repeat. Instead of making it forgettable, the song structure helps the melody remain in the back of my mind. It makes me question everything I know about all the songs I have ever listened to. What makes a song a song? Does a song have to have a beat, a rhythm, a chorus, a bridge? Or can music be whatever the listener enjoys? Frank, I want to talk to you. There must be something in your songs that makes your fans keep coming back to your, needless to say, weirdly-structured songs. How did you do it? How did you sit down in your studio, pencil in hand, mind submerged in your lyrics, and think of this wild idea? Did you do it for fun? Did you do it knowing you would stretch the limits of music, overstep the borders, change the musical world? Or maybe it’s more than the mechanical structure of your songs. Maybe it’s the stories you tell, full of raw emotion, that enthrall listeners such as myself. I find myself empathizing with you, and my heart starts to ache, as if I’m the one in the toxic relationship. Were you aware your songs about heartbreak and relationships would captivate a young girl whose never even had her first kiss? Whatever it was, I think you’re a damn genius for doing it. I want you to know you’ve changed the way I view music forever, and you did the same for millions, I presume. Your music made me more mature. I feel wiser, older, more capable of understanding the world around me. Thank you, Frank Ocean. Thank you for writing a strange song about cars and tying it to love and thus revolutionizing my views on the world. Outward: I’m sure we’re taller in another dimension, you say we’re small and not worth the mention. Frank whispers the last verse, singing lines of despair. He realizes that he and his partner do not work. While his mind wants to dream big and watch the world bloom, his partner’s mind does not, and instead wants to stay within their relationship’s walls. Frank, frustrated with the dynamic, is now able to find peace within himself rather than his failed relationship. He learns to leave the one causing his unhappiness, and find comfort, teaching listeners to never settle for a relationship that doesn’t bring out the best in them. Inward: Hearing this song and listening to the lyrics thrusts me into a new reality, where I feel trapped in a relationship and desperately want to leave, yet I feel attached to this person. Many times, I have felt trapped inside of friendships. Despite the lack of romance, I still relate to Frank’s lyrics about everlasting yet toxic love and newly found peace within myself. The lyrics are beautifully universal, such that any person, from a young girl with no romantic history, to an old woman with a bothersome husband, can place themself within the song and interpret it their own way. When I listen to this song, I am driving on the road with a mystery person, not necessarily a lover, head in the clouds, hands on the steering wheel of a White Ferrari.