We've been waiting for it for five years, persisting through countless delays, endless trolling and false drop dates. But late last night, it came.
My little bro and I were heading home from a family dinner, blasting Nikes in the car while we discussed his latest visual album Endless and the style of new music he'd been putting out. We got in, still talking about Ocean and about the provocative Nikes video that dropped earlier that day.
11:37pm, we're watching Community on Netflix, both unwinding whilst scanning twitter and blogs we follow. That's when I stumbled upon something peculiar. A twitter post by Pigeons and Planes, one of the music blogs I love reading up on.
'Frank Ocean announces pop up stores on the eve of BoysDontCry release'
Since Endless dropped, every blog I followed said the album was coming this weekend. I didn't get my hopes up. But, did this mean...? I scour the rest of my feed with absolutely no other signs of a pop-up in existence. Is it real?I opened the tweet to the promotional image for the magazine, the material being released at these pop-ups, the zine promised by Ocean at the albums earliest announcement years ago. At the bottom of the image were cities. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago... London.
I'm shouting at Luke now and he's getting equally as hyped. An exclusive pop-up store in our city! I'm racing through the web in search of more clues that don't come. No-one else is even tweeting about it yet, this can't be right. We can't be the only ones. It's 11:59, 12:00. I right click. boysdontcry.co, loading. It opens. Blonde. Album cover. No text. Luke and I say nothing, we just stare at my screen. I tell him to jump onto iTunes NOW. And it's there. The album is real, it's here. This is not a drill.
We become hysterical and over-excited. We feel like the only ones in the world who know, and we have to spread the news. So we do. As much as we can anyway before curiosity trumps sheer excitement and we decide the time has come, we need to listen. So we do. The lights turn off, the only existing glow exuding from our laptop screens. Nikes plays out loud through our speakers. We spend the next hour almost in complete silence, interrupted only by the occasional outbursts of appreciation of what we were hearing. After the album plays out we sit back and discuss for a brief moment, before remembering the pop-up. We need to get there!
1:23am, we jump back onto Twitter searching for anything. An hour and a half's passed since our first glimpse of Blond on Frank's website, all the blogs are reporting about it now, everyone is talking about the album. Everyone. But still, nothing about this London pop-up to prove it exists; no pictures, no tweets. Fuck it, we'll have to go and see for ourselves, we decide, and we'll camp out if we have to. And then it comes. The first tweet, with a video touring the inside of the London pop-up. It's real. Only 400 copies, we hear someone say. We quickly learn it opened at midnight. Shit. What the fuck have we been doing the past hour!? We grab our jackets, my keys and head out.
Laptop plugged in, we're streaming the entire album all over again as we race from Harrow to Soho. Street lights fly by, as we drive to the epic tones of Self-Control blasting through the speakers. We're digesting Ocean's unbelievable voice and poetry as we near our destination. Ivy is an immediate favourite, Solo, Skyline To, Andre 3000's wild contribution on the Solo (Reprise), the black depths of Ocean's mind that Seigfried ventures into and the heaven-sent melodies on Godspeed. This album is masterful. Before we know it we're just a couple of roads away. It's 2:12am and we get our first glimmer of the scene, as a young guy races past us down an empty street holding a shiny, thick packet across his chest. As we park and start to run closer to 66 Charlotte Street, we start to see more of them. Trendy-as-fuck kids running with these packets in the opposite direction to us. It's surreal. The closer we get, the more there are, until we're there. We see a glow from the only store open on the street in the early hours of the morning.
As I walk passed the opening, I glance inside at empty shelves. Are we too late? These glossy packets are staring at me, I need one. What treasures are held inside? Stories, secrets, insights into the worlds most popular enigma. The line is about 100 people long, tiny in consideration to what is actually happening right now. The queue moves fast as we converse in depth with strangers.
"Two versions! We got two versions...."
We hear a phrase that has come to be a staple throughout the albums tangled promotion, exclaimed from around the corner. People who have already picked up their issue cling to it tightly, almost as if in fear it would vanish somehow. We're so close now, we're almost in touching distance. That's when the announcement comes. The final packet is handed over. 400 free copies. 405th in line. We didn't make it.
Reluctantly, after lingering among our other brokenhearted, but still admirably hopeful, peers in the queue, we find our way back to our car. Miserable, distraught. We were given the chance to be a part of this album's history. 400 limited edition copies released, with a brand new CD inside. We could have been part of 400 out of 8.6 billion Londoners to get the physical insight into one of the world's most talked about contemporary artists. Something we would hold onto for years, once this album breaks records, knowing we were part of 'the in crowd'. But we missed out by five people, by our foolishness and desperation to hear the album before we left. Regardless, it's here and from what I can tell from my many listens so far, it's special.
We get lost on the way home and find ourselves at a dead end, in the middle of nowhere. Our silent misery is deafening, so we decide to get out and celebrate the release of a beautiful album thats been five years in waiting, listening and talking in depth, one more time, before heading home.