After a whirlwind, unconventional release, Frank Ocean’s new album is coasting toward the top of the charts.
“Blonde,” the follow-up to the enigmatic singer’s critically acclaimed and Grammy-winning major label debut, “Channel Orange,” is expected to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — a first for Ocean.
Released Saturday exclusively to Apple Music and available for purchase through the iTunes store, the album is projected to debut with 225,000 to 250,000 equivalent albums, Billboard reported late Monday.
The arrival of “Blonde” (also stylized as “blond”) followed a rollout that kept fans guessing.
In April 2015, Ocean announced that he had completed an album, to be called “Boys Don’t Cry,” and his reps confirmed the album and an accompanying publication would arrive in July of that year.
A year later, the singer updated his website with an image of a library due-date card stamped with a number of dates — including July 2016.
That date came and went, pushing eager fans to create memes including a missing poster inquiring about Ocean’s whereabouts.
The singer, it turned out, was bunkered down in the studio creating two albums.
Ocean launched a livestream earlier this month that signaled his return. In the video, he could be seen building wooden boxes, a metaphor of the arduous task of crafting a body of work (and likely a cheeky nod to those who have been impatient with his musical output).
That video turned out to be “Endless,” a black-and-white art film featuring 18 new tracks. It also was released directly to Apple Music.
And yet Ocean wasn’t done.
A few days after the release of “Endless,” he dropped the tantalizing visual for “Nikes” before announcing pop-up shops in cities including New York, Chicago, London and Los Angeles.
At the pop-up, fans were given free copies of “Boys Don’t Cry” with a copy of “Blonde” tucked inside, while the album was simultaneously revealed to Apple Music-streaming subscribers.
Dozens of pop-music heavyweights are credited on the album, including Andre 3000, Beyoncé, James Blake, Jamie XX, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Malay, Om’Mas Keith, Tyler the Creator, Rick Rubin and Pharrell Williams.
Ocean’s last album, “Channel Orange,” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 after selling 131,000 copies in its first week.
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