Experiencing Endless, the Frank Ocean album released by surprise last night, is not the simplest matter. You have to be a subscriber to the Apple Music streaming service. You have to go to Apple Music’s home screen and click on a promo there because Apple Music’s page for Frank Ocean’s discography doesn’t have the album right now. You have to leave open a 45-minute video of Frank Ocean building a spiral staircase, the same footage seen on his much-publicized live-stream this month. The music plays as one continuous track, which means no easy shuffling between songs and no playlisting. To find the song names, you’ll have to Google around or wait for the end credits.
And Endless is not the record that has been hyped for a few years now, most recently with The New York Times reporting it would be out August 5. That album was Boys Don’t Cry, and Rolling Stone now says it also will be released this weekend but it won’t be called Boys Don’t Cry anymore. (The words “Boys Don’t Cry” appear in a logo at the end of the Endless credits, as do a bunch of typography experiments for the word “Endless.”)
The most charitable snap judgement about this situation would be to say that it’s another example of how the Internet has enabled innovation around the notion of the album and the album release. The less charitable thought would be that this roll-out seems designed to maintain Ocean’s mysterious image and monumental buzz him while distracting a bit from the music itself (plus, of course, making money for him and Apple).