Joesef (Supplied)

Love Letter to a Record: Joesef on Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’

Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. Here, Scottish soul-pop singer Joesef shares his affection for Frank Ocean’s Blonde (2016).

Joesef, a pop and soul singer from the East End of Glasgow, is set to release his debut album, Permanent Damage, in January 2023. The record’s latest single, ‘Joe’, is an introduction to the album’s unsparing emotional honesty. “It’s about grieving for a version of myself that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back,” Joesef said in a statement.

Joesef’s Love Letter to Frank Ocean’s Blonde

Joesef: I was completely ill when I first heard this record, like crawling to the bathroom, bedridden ill. I was in Thailand, and after a few months of travelling about on my own, I had finally hit a brick wall. My boyfriend at the time had come and met me out there. He was going out that night and as a sort of get well soon gesture, he bought me Blonde on iTunes.

I remember feeling as though I was slipping under the surface of a heated pool after the first note of ‘Nikes’, a kind of feverish pull that I held no resistance too. Compared to Channel Orange, the songs felt more sparse, more meditative, but still as direct.

Tracks like ‘Self Control’ hold such a specificity to his own experience, a particular honesty, that to listen to it felt like eavesdropping through an ear pressed up against the wall adjacent to his bedroom. The production swirls in big pink hues around the very singular delivery of his voice, changing and evolving with the stories being told.

Frank Ocean – ‘Self Control’

I associate a lot of this album with a particular time in my life, experiencing love for the first time, with a boy. Blonde is so full of potent nostalgia that even when I listen now, it’s hard not to be pulled beneath it all again. I remember it being so good that it scared me, like, “Fucking hell what is this?!” It wasn’t just music, it was art. Being so ill then, it was hard to recognise the weight of an album like that, the impact culturally that would be felt for years.

Blonde and its influence ripples through a lot of music and art today, including in my own work. I think Frank’s music has always been good at taking you somewhere else, whether it be backwards or propelling you forward. Sometimes I’ll put this record on and I’m right back there, with my arms around him and in love for the very first time again.

Joesef – ‘Joe’ (Official Video)

  • Joesef’s Permanent Damage is out on Friday, 13th January 2023.

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