Frank Ocean’s ‘Endless' visual album: A song-by-song exploration

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On Thursday night, eternal tease and magical artist Frank Ocean decided to bless us by releasing his sophomore studio album Endless. Previously promoted as Boys Don't Cry, Frank spent almost a full two years taunting his fans with rumors about when his very anticipated new album would drop. Two weeks ago, he even gave those same fans a glimmer of hope when he set up a "live-stream" video of himself cutting wood, and it sparked the rumor that he would release his album that Friday. It was a lie.

But Frank Ocean's sophomore album is finally here. Well, part one is here—he's got "two versions." It's rumored that he's dropping another album this weekend. Currently, Endless  is only streaming as a "visual album" on Apple Music, and we bit the bullet and paid to watch it for you. But is it any good?


We—two self-professed Frank Ocean fans of able body and sharp mind—decided to listen to the album together, and try to decide if it's worth the wait. Here are our feelings, track by track:


"Device Control"

Kelsey: I am gonna be real honest. The first time I played this video I thought it was going to be just more silent wood shop class and I was pissed.

Tahirah: I was so pissed. I was like, not again, Frank, you won’t fool me like this. Then I heard his voice, and all was forgiven.

Kelsey: From the beginning of this album, there’s a real emphasis on technology and phones?


Tahirah: It’s interesting to have this track that's about our obsession with devices and instant communication, while Frank is in the background doing making a staircase from scratch that is rooted in the idea of delayed gratification. Is Frank criticizing technology while also getting a deal from Apple Music? It's kind of like he's forcing us to see the importance of the slow creative build by making us watch him saw wood, then delivering this beautiful album in the process.

"At Your Best (You Are Love)"

Kelsey: I absolutely love that Frank Ocean is paying tribute to Aaliyah on this song. So often, female inspirations are erased from male works, and here’s our boy Frank ignoring that precedent.


Tahirah: But it’s an Isley Brothers cover, too. I wonder who is really the inspiration. Well, I think she did make it popular, though—plus all the sadboys love Aaliyah.

Kelsey: This song is a good reminder that this is really the summer of sadboy.

Tahirah: I’m glad I haven’t gotten trapped in their sadness. There's Radiohead and James Blake on this track, all we need is Drake to complete this boy band: The Sensitive Souls.



Tahirah: I want everyone to realize that…this is essentially the same video he showed us two weeks ago with some added visuals, music and he's gotten further along with building the staircase.


Kelsey: Yes! This track features Sampha, who does absolutely nothing for me personally.

Tahirah: Nooo, Sampha has the range. His voice is so distinct and raw, but then at the same time smooth like butter.



Kelsey: This is just Frank muttering, "How come the ecstasy always depresses me so?" I do not know if it should count as a song.


Tahirah: Definitely doesn't count as a song.


Kelsey: I like this song because I think it is HILARIOUS when rappers reference really silly sports like tennis: "Nothin' but, nothin' but net / Is you Roger or Novak?" Talk about mixed metaphors, Frank.


Tahirah: I like Frank rapping. I remember Tyler The Creator saying that Frank thinks he can spit now, and he kind of can. It feels very natural. I like the wordplay: "El Chapo, de facto /Belle nacho, shell taco, crunch crackle / Green emerald pink diamonds like Apple Jack bull."

Kelsey: Plus, it’s about time songs with spelling come back: u-n-i-t-y.

Tahirah: My favorite line is definitely: I never ever trust a pre-rolled. Because, same.


Ambience 001 "In A Certain Way"

This song is four seconds long. We have nothing to say about it. 

"Comme Des Garcons"

Tahirah: “Feelings come, feelings go”—life lessons from Frank.

Kelsey: Apparently this song is written for Ocean’s ex-boyf Camil Raymond. But this quick little “feelings come, feelings go” chorus doesn’t really have the emotional depth that so much of this album does have!


Tahirah: It sounds like something you say when you aren’t really over it. But also thank you Genius for pointing out that "Comme Des Garcons" means "Like Boys." That gives it a little depth.

Ambience 002 "Honey Baby"

This song is also a blip. 

Kelsey:  I don’t really “get” these ambience songs. I think they would work just as well as outros or intros. I’m not sure what the benefit of making them their own songs is.


Tahirah: They are just like "filler" songs. Fading in, fading out. I usually like interludes and transitional tracks, but these are a little too quick to me.


Kelsey: This is the kind of song I would SOB to. The layers voices are very haunting


Tahirah: Yes. It is sad. But now is the time to ask the question: Does Frank have the range? He has such a little raspy voice

Kelsey:  Before this album, I woulda said “definitely not." But now I am like “probably not."


Tahirah: He sounds better. But still doesn’t have it. I do love when singers don’t sound perfect, though. There’s something deeply emotional about it and it's easier for me to connect to the song.



Tahirah: Frank loves singing about the suburbs. But omg Jazmine Sullivan. Her voice, what a great collaboration choice.


Kelsey: I love Frank’s voice layered with Jazmine’s. It is really beautiful.

Tahirah: This is lovely.

"In Here Somewhere"

Kelsey: This is an instrumental song, and the first one on this album with a really strong beat to it.


Tahirah:  There’s something about it that draws me in. I like the muffled synth voice in the background.

Kelsey: I also like that at this point in the visual album, Frank finally starts doing something fairly interesting instead of just chopping giant pieces of wood.


Tahirah: I think he is demonstrating a very important safety tip: Always have the right gear.

"Slide on Me"

Kelsey: I cannot understand Frank on this song. But of all the songs on this album, "Slide on Me" definitely has the catchiest chorus hook.


Tahirah: I really like the way Frank writes. He writes like a conversation, like he’s singing it to someone.

Kelsey: Yes, a conversation we only hear one side of.

Tahirah: His diary.


Tahirah: Lobster.

Kelsey: Lobster!

Kelsey: But really, for some reason this song reminds me of true formal poetry. Like, it is written in METER. I guess all rap is in some kind of meter, but this one has the cadence of something you're forced to read in a college English class.


Tahirah: Strong agree. Also, "When I’m up they gon’ hate, when I’m down they gon’ celebrate." Can I get that on a T-shirt?


Kelsey: This song is only 30 seconds long, and I have nothing else to say about it.


"Deathwish (ASR)"

Tahirah: I like this half-song. Frank Ocean really makes me think, “What is a song?"


Kelsey: There are so many black men making songs that sound like they could be hymns of the 21st century, and I think this song places Ocean in that canon. This sounds like a church-y song to me. Holy, almost.



Tahirah: Jazmine Sullivan is all over this album. Some of this sounds very Channel Orange.


Kelsey: Compared to the previous songs on the album, this song sounds like it might have been created a lot earlier, like possibly years ago. The guitar and vocals are very Channel Orange.

Tahirah: Like, possibly years ago when we wanted an album, lmao.  I like this beat, though. It sounds like he was playing around on an Akai beat pad.


"Rushes To"

Kelsey: I don’t love "Rushes To."

Tahirah: Yeah, I'm bored.

Kelsey: I don’t know why, but it’s earnest in a way that feels contrived to me. I DON'T BUY IT, FRANK. This is definitely the “I took vocal classes” song



Tahirah: I like this. I can already tell five seconds in. I really like Frank as a rapper / trap star.


Kelsey: This song is trappy. I am gonna be honest, though, the staircase that Frank built has steps that are too small for anyone with a normal-sized foot

Tahirah: It’s about the aesthetic, Kelsey, not if it’s actually functional. I like these visuals so much more now that I know there’s a purpose: Frank's dream unrealistic staircase.


What is up with the video?


Kelsey: Okay, we're done. We did it. Now let's discuss this "visual album."

Tahirah: Is it really a visual album? Not by Queen Bey’s definition.

Kelsey: I’m not sure that this can be called a “visual album” because I don’t think the album and the visuals are integrated in a way that makes them better consumed together. In fact, I would say the visual aspect of this album weakens it by diverting attention away from what Frank’s doing sonically to what he’s doing physically in the video, which is just chopping wood.


Tahirah: I don’t think he needed this to release his album. I don’t need to watch these visuals to listen to these songs. But in a way he's like, since people were pushing me to release them album, I'm going to make everyone watch me work. It's like a behind-the-scenes look at making an album using Frank's future West Elm collection as a metaphor.

Was it worth the wait?


Tahirah: I think I need to listen to it a couple more times to make a final decision. On first listen, I liked it, but the visual portion really threw me off.

Kelsey: I’ve listened/watched this album three times so far, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give it a true response at this point. I will say this: the biggest fear with the sophomore Frank Ocean album was that it would be a withering and absolutely unwarranted disappointment. There was a fear that our assumption of his genius was wrong. I don’t think this album is innovative or as “special” as we wanted it to be. But I also don’t think it’s a disappointment. And with as much buildup as Frank created, that might be all he can ask for.


Tahirah: I’m unsure if I am still over the fact that I had to wait four years for this. I do not think it was worth the wait, which is probably why Frank has “twoooo versions." It’s weird to be in a place where you are begging an artists to rush their creative process. But I don’t care. That’s what fans do.

Kelsey: I also don’t think it was worth the wait. I think by this point Frank could have gotten this second album out of the way and made us a beautiful third album to love and to cherish.


Tahirah: I agree. I definitely don’t think this album was a failure. It’s beautiful, all of the collaborations are perfectly chosen, Frank is a beautiful wordsmith and that hasn’t changed, and the album flows together in this way where you feel like you have to listen to it all at once. I don’t love this as much as I loved his mixtapes, but it’s clear that Frank has grown past that stage of his life.

You can find Endless, the "visual album," on Apple Music.

Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.

Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.