It's been four years since Frank Ocean released his universally-applauded and Grammy Award-winning debut album, Channel Orange. Since then, fans have obsessed over inconsequential evidence, created and been consumed by conspiracy theories, and turned lots of nothings into somethings in anticipation of his next move. Ocean's disinterest in succumbing to the public's pressure (okay, ouch), coupled with the fact that he's uncharacteristically (and maybe a little frustratingly?) elusive for a celebrity, has only upped our insatiable ante so, at this point, every hint, teaser, and outlying offering will have to suffice.
Here, we've rounded them up to review while we impatiently wait for Boys Don't Cry.
April 6, 2015: It begins. Frank Ocean takes to Tumblr to post a photo of himself sitting next to two stacks of a magazine titled Boys Don't Cry and he makes sure to pen a caption that includes some now-deleted hashtags-turned-lies, complete with a release date and everything: "I got two versions. I got twooo versions…#ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY."
Even a rep confirms to Billboard that, yes, both a new album and Ocean's own publication are due in July.
Frank Ocean // Tumblr
May 1, 2015: Frank creates a Snapchat account. He announces the new development and reveals his handle via, again, a Tumblr post (naturally): "SNAPCHAT: AREALGLITTERBOY will shine and shine and shine."
June 19, 2015: Frank posts his first Snap: a selfie in which he's wearing a jacket featuring the artwork from New York band Television's 1977 album Marquee Moon. There's no context whatsoever, but it's progress, right?! Wrong. The Snap ends up being his last and only.
Frank Ocean // Snapchat
July 28, 2015: With only three days left to the month, it starts to dawn on all of us that Boys Don't Cry is not coming. His mom takes to Twitter to unreasonably ask us to have patience and does her best to placate us by calling the upcoming album a "treasure."
July 31, 2015: Frank's younger brother Ryan makes the trolling a family affair when he posts the original hype-inducing image on a now-deleted Instagram account, claims that the album is "finally out!," and that the iTunes link listed in his bio will lead us to the Promise Land. But the whole thing turns out to be a 'Rick Roll': a misleading journey to Rick Astley's infamous "Never Gonna Give You Up."
August 9, 2015: Ocean's rumored ex-girlfriend, actress-singer Alycia Bellamy, joins in on the bullying too by revealing that she's "already heard the entire album." Okay, cocky. She also compares it to nature's elements; you know, just the things that are essential to the existence of the Earth. No biggie.
already heard the entire album & know every word ☺️.— Alycia Bella (@AlyciaBella) August 9, 2015
@AlvinGospodinov . Everything.— Alycia Bella (@AlyciaBella) August 10, 2015
That same day, Frank's mom tells a bold-faced lie on Twitter: "Yes," the album is coming out this year. Mmkay.
August 20, 2015: Two days before he's scheduled to appear as a headliner at Los Angeles' FYF Fest, Frank proves himself to be the kind of RSVPer we hate and cancels the set. According to a press release, he "decided on his own terms to cancel his appearance." Kanye West serves as his replacement.
August 21, 2015: Ocean's publicist releases a statement and provides an excuse and apology that no cares about or accepts: "We're really sorry that due to a scheduling conflict beyond our control, Frank Ocean is not going to be able to appear at FYF Festival as planned. Frank had really been looking forward to the performance and to seeing all of his fans, so it is with great regret that we announce this cancellation."
Carti Signed To Rocky Yesterday, Today - Right Now Carti Is Doing Song With Frank Ocean In NYC As I Type This.— Ian Connor (@souljaian) September 12, 2015
Yea Shits Weird.
October 28, 2015: It's Frank's birthday and the only way his barber sees fit to celebrate that is by teasing us with an overload of information—see: a photo, a promise, and some anticipatory statements—that we weren't prepared to handle: "droppin very soon",, (his album cover Is OUTTA THIS WORLD ill tell ya Thatt much,,) well worth the wait!"
November 10, 2015: London-based electronic singer-songwriter Khushi shares a photo of Frank on Facebook and does it so blasécasuallymatter-of-factly that we kinda wanna kill him: "Just a normal evening hanging out with Frank Ocean in my shed."
Just a normal evening hanging out with Frank Ocean in my shed #Standard #Shedlife #Glumface
December 11, 2015: Frank's brother Ryan reminds us that he's still the only one lucky enough to see the ever-elusive artist in his natural habitat when he posts a pic of the two in (unplanned) matching all-black outfits and Yeezy Boost 350s.
January 6, 2016: Rich the Kid tweets a screenshot from a FaceTime session with Ocean with an "smh" caption and we're, like, "Us too, Rich. Us too." But he later deletes the tweet because of course he did.
February 11, 2016: Ocean has the audacity to make his most public appearance in nearly a year at Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3 event. He also has the nerve to look happy about it.
February 14, 2016: Kanye West's The Life of Pablo drops and Frank Ocean can be heard replacing Sia and Vic Mensa entirely as the featured guest on "Wolves." (The "living breathing changing creative expression" of an album is later edited and Ocean's verse becomes its own track because Kanye knows that's what it rightfully deserved)
February 28, 2016: Frank reportedly has a listening party in New York according to an "attendee" who, the next day, uploads a three-minute low-quality audio snippet to a random Soundcloud page (which has since been taken down) and then uploads video clips (which have also been taken down) to Instagram with captions like: "very very secret frank ocean listening party" and "#FRANKOCEAN NEW ALBUM SOUNDING ANGELIC AS FUCK."
March 1, 2016: Two days later, Bellamy swiftly shuts those rumors down.
March 29, 2015: Producer, songwriter, and engineer Malay, who worked on 13 of the 17 songs from Channel Orange is interviewed by Pitchfork and, finally, gives one of the most reliable Boys Don't Cry updates:
"A lot of the stuff on this new album was done with a handheld mic sitting in the control room. Frank's exploring different vibes completely on this album. I wouldn't say it's vocally looser but just his mentality; it doesn't seem as meticulous at certain times."
But when asked about the album's release date, we get more unappreciated ambiguity:
"I always tell people: When he's ready, the world is gonna get it. It could be tomorrow… well not tomorrow but maybe a month [laughs]. We've all been working hard. He's been working super hard. I feel like he's working harder than he's ever worked in his life. I'm excited for everyone to hear it. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised, for sure."
"When I was working on some of [Frank's] music early on, there was this chord progression I didn't like in something that we were making, and I had an idea. A producer was in the room when I was coming up with it, and he was like, 'Nah, I think the chords are fine.' I was like, 'No, no.' Then he basically said, 'This is Frank's music.' And that's exactly what I hadn't learned by working on my own all these years; it's the first lesson in producing, to let go. Frank's vision was the only thing that mattered, at the end of the day. If the tables were turned, and Frank were to have a particular opinion about my music, I would take it into consideration, but it's about my gut feeling as well. But learning from that made me want to work with other people on my own projects."
But when asked if the new Ocean record is "going to be worth the wait," we get more impalpable political-correctness:
"Yes, from what I know. It may be subject to change. He is onto something, he really is."
May 12, 2016: Chance the Rapper tries his best to commiserate with the public, telling Complex that he, like the rest of us, also can't keep track of Ocean.
[at the 11:52 mark]: "I am good friends with Frank. His new album is amazing. No one really is able to find Frank when Frank goes away, literally no one, not just publications but I know he's away, like, making a masterpiece. I think Frank is very, very focused on his catalogue. I think anything that you hear him on that's a feature from anyone was recorded a long time ago. I don't think Frank is working on anyone's stuff except for his own."
May 25, 2016: James Blake returns to add more fuel to the fire, even though literally no one asked him to. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Blake reveals that the track "Always," from his The Colour in Anything album, is "an interpolation of a song that [Ocean] wrote that hasn't come out yet." The album's credits identify the track as "Godspeed," but Blake says it "may or may not" appear on Frank's next album.
But after additionally admitting that they "did" work on other music together, Blake reels the bait back in and further proves what we all are slowly starting to discover: that no one has any damn idea what's going on with this godforsaken album.
"I can't [share any details] because I don't know any. Nobody knows. You could probably talk to almost anybody involved in that record and I'm not sure anybody would be able to tell you what's happening. He is going to make people very happy."
May 25, 2016 (again): James Blake gets diarrhea of the mouth and in yet another interview, this time with Rolling Stone, admits that it wasn't the acclaimed Channel Orange that got him interested in Ocean, but his new material instead:
"I was more of a fan of him when I heard his newer music. It's better. You grow, you improve, you nail a new message to the board. He's had time to mature. It's really cool to watch."
June 4, 2016: Ocean is spotted at Nobu in Los Angeles with DJ and super-producer Calvin Harris and we can't figure out how he has time to make friends when he has an album to record.
June 8, 2016: Lil B posts a #veryrare photo of Ocean to Instagram and we can't figure out how he has time to sleep when he has an album to record.
July 2, 2016: FRANK SPEAKS. HE SPEAKS VIA THE INTERNET, GUYS. Over a year after originally teasing the album, Frank returns to Tumblr (of course) to share a new graphic that implies it is dropping this month. This month. This. Month. The evidence is an old-fashioned library card decorated with a sequential list of stamped dates that concludes with July 2016, though the exact day is scratched out. And in an effort to give us all a heart attack, he deletes the post.
But his brother shares the same image on his Instagram account where, as of now, it still remains.
July 4, 2016: IAMSU! decides to throw his hat into the ring that is the Boys Don't Cry blackhole for no reason whatsoever. The rapper tells Twitter that not only is he featured on the upcoming album, but that it's "history"-making.
But less than 10 hours later, IAMSU! deletes, retracts, and corrects the tweets with so much overcompensation—uh, I "lied," was "joking," quick!; use some "[LAUGH-CRY FACE EMOJIS]"—that it only made us feel like the Illuminati's definitely real and they have absolutely executed their version of a gag order on his ass.
I fully lied about that frank ocean shit I was just joking— IAMSU! of HBK Gang (@IAMSU) July 4, 2016
July 11, 2016: Theophilus London tweets about the album and uses the word "soon" and we're grateful, but also like, uh huh, heard it all before, how soon?
Can't wait till that new Frank Ocean record drops soon! A Lil Birdy told me a secret last night— Theophilus London (@TheophilusL) July 11, 2016
July 31, 2016: Frank's website is given the most vague, noncontextualized update: a black-and-white live-streamed video, hosted by Apple Music, that depicts nothing but a warehouse. Sometimes an unidentifiable figure appears to do some woodworking; other times there are only empty work desks on the screen. Ambient noise and muffled chatter can be heard in the background, but there is no actual commentary. It is the equivalent of staring at a blank screen and, yet, here we are, actively participating.
The video can be seen here and is best viewed on mobile.
August 1, 2016: It's coming. The New York Times reports that come Friday (August 5), nearly 16 months after this trek of teasers began, Boys Don't Cry will be released exclusively through Apple Music, where it will remain for two weeks before becoming widely available. And remember that magazine we shared way at the beginning of this timeline? According to the source (who was reportedly unauthorized to discuss the release plans and therefore speaking on anonymity), that too will be distributed at Apple Stores.
August 5, 2016: Well, death to that liar of a "source." No album materializes like the NYT said it would but in an effort to commiserate, Snapchat releases two apropo filters for users to express their impatience with: one features a skeleton with the caption "Waiting for Frank Ocean's new music like…" and the other displays a letter greeting ("Dear Frank Ocean…") written in both a program (Mac TextEdit) and font Ocean often used on his Tumblr. Too soon, Snap. Too soon.
That same day, a Tumblr user leaks what appears to be screenshots of the digital version of that aforementioned Boys Don't Cry magazine. Among several images, there's one of a could-be Frank riding an ATV in Mississippi's Red Creek, one of what could be a transcribed conversation between Frank and a person named "BasedGod" (Lil B, is that you?) and another that displays notes written either by or about Tom Sachs, an artist whose 2002 installation Toyan—a group of speakers inspired by Jamaican sound systems—appeared in Frank's livestream. This is the least rewarding puzzle we've ever tried putting together.
August 6, 2016: There's a resurgence online in a theory that several fans, more adept at stalking than we, have been suggesting since July: that Ocean's album will drop November 13. Props to the folks who noticed that that damn library card, scattered with stamps, also has the fall date on it; our eyes (and many others) were simply trained to scan to the bottom. But November 13 will be a Sunday, so other people have theorized that the date is simply a reference to Frank's friend Tyler, the Creator's Camp Flog Gnaw music festival which ends on the same day. The concert's line-up claims that more artists will be announced, so maybe Ocean is making a surprise appearance? WE DON'T KNOW.
August 5th (Frank Ocean's last release date) is exactly 100 days out from November 13th...hmmm pic.twitter.com/fyACj5Yvk1— kotr (@kentontheroad) August 8, 2016
August 15, 2016: Producer Malay (who previously provided our March 29, 2015 update via Pitchfork) drops by Reddit to participate in the site's ongoing AMA ("Ask Me Anything") series. Despite the Q&A going down on the designated Frank Ocean page (or, subreddit) of the news and forum site, Malay declares before his arrival that he "will NOT answer any questions regarding the release date for Frank's new album, any questions regarding the production, creation, or anything involving Frank's new album, [and] no questions regarding Frank's creative process, as this is private to the artist."
Yeah, right. Nice try.
One rightfully frustrated fan tests the boundaries anyway and eloquently explains what we're all tired of hearing. He wrote:
"In the interest of asking a question that acknowledges those boundaries while still addressing the elephant in the room, I’d like to know what you think about how fans have interacted with the rollout to this point. I think the major pain point for fans has been the fact that Frank has led us to believe there’s something coming, and then he hasn't communicated with us at all. As someone who has believed in Frank and the communication he HAS given us throughout the process, who checked boysdontcry.co all day on July 31st because of the library card, who watched the first 2 hours of the looped stream on the morning of August 1st expecting something to happen , who left the stream on his TV all night on August 5th after the (honestly really awesome) suspense the stream built on August 4th, I feel like I've put some amount of trust in Frank and gotten really excited about the rollout he’s chosen to give us, but I believe that’s been betrayed to an extent."
And Malay, feeling the wrath of Frank fans, submits—though his answer isn't all that satisfying. He responded:
"First of all we all massively appreciate and love you guys, Frank has told me this himself many times. To be fair tho, art cannot be rushed. It's about making sure the perfect aesthetic for the situation has been reached, to do that, takes constant tweaking, trial and error.. That goes for any creative situation."
August 18, 2016: Frank has the nerve to be spotted on A$AP Rocky's Snapchat racing cars with Tyler, the Creator.
August 18, 2016 (again): In a new interview with Dazed, Lil B drops more useless breadcrumbs. When asked what it's been like working with Frank Ocean, he said:
"Frank Ocean was amazing. He called me to come out and do some stuff for his album, 'Boys Don't Cry', that's coming out. Frank is amazing. He's a beautiful man with a beautiful voice. He's a very strong man, a very strong person. Anything that I can do to help him, I will."
But when pressed further to give actual details on Boys Don't Cry, he hits us with a conditional we didn't see coming:
"If Frank releases. Let's see what Frank releases. Frank has the material."
We don't know what to think anymore.