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Frank Ocean releases visually arresting ‘Nikes’ ahead of new album

A day after the surprise release of his visual album “Endless,” Frank Ocean dropped a new single, “Nikes,” early Saturday ahead of what’s expected to be the release of the official follow-up to 2012’s “Channel Orange.”
A day after the surprise release of his visual album “Endless,” Frank Ocean dropped a new single, “Nikes,” early Saturday ahead of what’s expected to be the release of the official follow-up to 2012’s “Channel Orange.”
(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press)

The return of Frank Ocean continues: A day after the surprise release of his visual album “Endless,” the enigmatic singer dropped a new single, “Nikes,” early Saturday morning while fans wait for the expected release of yet another album, the official follow-up to 2012’s “Channel Orange.”

“Nikes,” released directly to Apple Music, is a powerful reminder of why the four-year wait for Ocean’s return has felt so excruciating.

“I got two versions. I got twoooo versions,” the song opens, both a nod to his own cryptic announcement a year ago about his new music and possibly a clue about the singer’s intentions with this dual offering of music.

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And that “two versions” theme extends to how Ocean presents himself on the new track — his delicate falsetto weaving between an Auto-Tuned chirp and a woozy slowed-down vocal.

The two vocals float alongside each other before Ocean’s unaltered voice drops in, shifting between rapping and singing.

Loneliness and lust drive the record after a trippy rap that covers much ground, including paying tribute to Trayvon Martin and Pimp C and calling out a golddigger.

“I may be younger, but I’ll look after you / We’re not in love, but I make love to you / When you’re not here, I save some for you / I’m not him, but I mean something to you.”

Featuring a kaleidoscope of tantalizing images and a wealth of symbolism to unpack, the nearly five-minute NSFW clip for “Nikes” (with glittery nudity and cursing) is visually arresting.

Directed by Tyrone Lebon, the video combines shots of men and women nude and covered in cash, a dancing devil, a rapping Chihuahua, bodies covered in glitter, a drunken party and self-immolation.

ASAP Rocky appears, holding a picture of late friend and collaborator ASAP Yams. A man wearing a hoodie with the word “Lover” holds a photo of Trayvon Martin.

Rapper Trina appears (she’s shouted out on the track), as does Kanye West — although his face, covered in glitter, is mostly obscured save for his distinct smile.

There’s even a sly reference to the Heaven’s Gate cult, with a person, presumably Ocean, lying on a bed in the middle of a room wearing black pants, black and white Nikes and a purple cloth over his body and surrounded by partygoers.

It’s unclear if “Nikes” is a standalone work or the first release from Ocean’s forthcoming album.

The single follows the late Thursday night release of “Endless,” the 18-track visual album. The 45-minute project is a precursor to the singer’s much-speculated-about album known as “Boys Don’t Cry” (though various unconfirmed reports have said the singer has scrapped that title). Some speculate the new album will arrive this weekend.

For more music news follow me on Twitter:@GerrickKennedy

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