Frank Ocean’s Apple exclusive is out: A surprise title, but not a surprise launch

After much anticipation, Frank Ocean has released his new album. The project is titled Blonde, although previous reports pegged the name as Boys Don’t Cry. The arrival of a new Apple Music exclusive is getting to be dime-a-dozen news, but Ocean’s new project does have a few key takeaways.

First, as previously reported, the new release was accompanied by a visual album project. Endless aired on Apple Music over the weekend prior to the music component going live. Given the trends toward video as a way to experience music and engage with fans, this may be an increasingly relevant tool for artists to have in their arsenal.

Second, Blonde was initially expected to to drop on Aug. 5. The Verge reported that the delay happened after The New York Times published details about the release and took away the impact of what was planned as a surprise. Successfully executing a surprise album launch is a real challenge in the digital age, and it’s one that has had mixed results. Beyoncé’s self-titled project in 2014 was one of the winners, but it’s near-impossible to prevent leaks or rumors, even with an exclusive distribution deal. And as streaming services compete to get the first access to very popular music, it may even be detrimental for fans to not know where they’ll be able to hear a new release. Thus, surprise albums may have less staying power as a marketing tool.

Anna Washenko