How Far Is A Light-Year?
“This is what we’ve been looking for since the day we met. Time. That’s what the Good Place really is — it’s not even a place, really. It’s just having enough time with the people you love.” — Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place, Ep. 4x12
My favorite album of the 21st Century is Frank Ocean’s Blond(e). This should hardly come as a surprise, I’ve been singing Mr. Ocean’s praises on this page for over five years.
Even half a decade later, I’ve listened to it more often in 2021 than any other full record. I work to it, write to it, and over the course of this summer when I slept on a mattress in an otherwise empty yet brand new house, I moved to it.
The album’s 19 tracks are a sweeping and disarmingly gorgeous whole and deserve to be listened to alone, in one sitting, without interruption, without distraction, with the lights off and the candles ablaze. I believe the experience seeps into the infinite recesses of our souls and spirits — a devastating, wondrous journey that plants flags in our psyche and reshapes our neuropathways. It’s done in an hour; it lingers long after.
I believe Frank Ocean painstakingly assembled Blond(e) to eulogize his youthful and mistake-filled past, chronicle his enlightenment and innocence lost, release old ghosts, honor what (and, importantly, who) shaped him, and proclaim a future free from duty and other people’s expectations.
Near the close of the final song “Futura Free”, Ocean compatriot [and a budding star in his own right] Mikey Alfred asks over the murmuring outro music, “How far is a light-year?”
A light-year — the distance light travels in a year, in case you’re new to astronomy — is roughly equivalent to 9.4×1012 km. It can’t possibly be a coincidence that “Futura Free” is 9.4 minutes (9:24) long. It isn’t; Frank Ocean himself all but telegraphed it.
This kind of intricate construction and self-referential detail are found all over the album and help separate Blond(e) from merely excellent or even cohesive collections of sound and song. This kind of intricate…