The Ultimate Breakdown of Frank Ocean’s Best Song ‘Nights’
Eight months later Ocean’s mid-album track is still as mesmerizing as it is perplexing
When Frank Ocean’s, Blonde dropped back in August of 2016, I found myself stuck on one song in particular. A year later, I AM STILL STUCK on this song. I listen to this track almost every day and I can’t get enough of it.
‘Nights’ is a beautifully structured piece that starts off as a happy groove, that transforms into a psychedelic ballad, before concluding on a soothing and slow hip hop beat. As Frank‘s voice deepens it blends perfectly with the change in instrumental as the song progresses. But in order for you guys to understand what the hell I’m even talking about, we need to breakdown the song.
Part One: A Pleasant Intro
An upbeat Spaceman Patterson guitar riff opens the song along Ocean’s soothing angelic voice, before easing into a smooth drum beat. There you find yourself grooving with the simplicity of the track. During this section, Frank sings about a relationship that was once alive and now seemingly dying out.
“I ain’t tryna keep you. Can’t keep up a conversation. Can’t nobody reach you. Why your eyes well up? Did you call me from a séance? You are from my past life. Hope you’re doing well bruh,”
This puts listeners in their feels, which is what Frank is a master at. If Frank Ocean can’t put you in your feels, then you are probably one heartless motherfucker.
As the track goes on, Ocean poetically alters your mind, making you feel like you are listening to this song in heaven.
At 1:40 mark, the beat starts to break down along heavy synthesizers, as Ocean continues to seduce you with poetic line after poetic line, with no intention of stopping. Then the first part of the track fades out, transitioning into a slow psychedelic breakdown.
Part One Intermission: Shit Hits The Fan
Right around the three-minute mark you hear a chaotic guitar riff that sounds like a mayday procedure of a helicopter about to crash into the face of the earth. In a span of 30 seconds, Ocean makes you frantic, scared, and anxious, only to put you back at ease. Once the chaos ends you are back in heaven.
Part Two: Little Gems hidden Everywhere
What happens at this point in the track is pretty interesting. The new beat starts right at the 3:30-minute mark of the song, which is right at the 30-minute mark of the album, splitting the album into two. This might also explain the reason why the album is titled ‘Blonde’ and the album artwork reads “blond”.
When this second beat drops it eases in smoothly. Frank then comes in with an odd sounding voice. I am not sure how they edited his voice in this part (possibly slowing it down in post), but it sounds like a gremlin casually spitting rhymes. I know that might sound weird, but I can’t help but find it soothing. The change in voice supports the new mood and slower tempo.
Here Frank raps about living a life connected by rough nights (hence the title of the song). His haters, moving to Texas, and finding love after Hurricane Katrina are all touched on. I know that sounds like a lot to be rapping about in half a track, but Frank manipulates his words in such a way that you think he created a new variation of the English language. Thus telling you just about everything in a matter of a few words.
“Droppin’ baby off at home before my night shift. You know I can’t hear none of that spend the night shit. That kumbaya shit. Want to see nirvana, but don’t want to die yet”.
Here, Ocean mentions “kumbaya” and “nirvana”. He poetically blends spirituality with nostalgia, somehow finding a way to pick and choose catchy lyrics. I could go into detail explaining this snippet of his last verse, but everyone should interpret this song on their own and try to read between the lines.
That’s the beautiful thing about Frank Ocean’s “nights.” The song’s versatility can make you feel nostalgic, spiritual awoken, happy, or sad. The intentions of this track may not seem clear with the overwhelming amount of deeper meanings, instrumental changes, and pitch variations. It’s a beautiful fusion of sounds that I am still trying to figure out eight months later. But when you have something as beautifully constructed as Ocean’s ninth track, does there need to be an explanation?
I basically wrote over 900 words just to say nothing, so who knows. Thanks, Frank.