Frank Ocean’s vocal deliveries are untouchable. When he burrows into the heart of emotion with his words, his voice usually follows suit with an unprecedented rawness. Delivery is the force driving “Good Guy,” a Blonde track dedicated to a blind date gone wrong, dedicated to nights out, meaning everything and nothing with the wrong people.
“Good Guy,” produced by Frank himself, clocks in at just over a minute, but within that minute, Frank manages to execute a gut punch so intense, we are barely prepared to step into the realm of “Nights.” It’s all in the way Frank’s vocal wavers and feels so crumbly.
On “Good Guy,” we are mere seconds away from hearing Frank babbling. His fast-talk, too, is an emotional trick. It’s a sign of Frank wanting to rush through telling the story, for he cannot stand his pain. “Good Guy” presents a Frank Ocean bereft of peace.
The structure of Blonde unfolding like memories is on full display with “Good Guy,” which is the most insular track on the album. The song is a brisk retelling of a fraught evening in 10 simple lines without much ceremony.
The narrative of “Good Guy” is isolated from all other narratives on Blonde, too, making it just a flash in the album’s overall story. Perhaps this gives the impression “Good Guy” is a superfluous track, but, of course, Frank has plans for us and our emotions.
Consider this: We have just exited “Self Control” emotional after being left and watching our former lover move on. “Good Guy” intervenes in the Blonde narrative the way the stages of grief intervene on each other. With a bit of a jagged edge, “Good Guy” steps in to slow the bleeding of “Self Control,” by reminding us it could be so much worse.
Each line of “Good Guy” could be its own song—at the least, it’s own vignette to expound upon. We begin with “Here’s to the good guy, he hooked it up,” paying special attention to how Frank’s voice quivers on the mention of “he.” It’s not malice, but something sadder, as if Frank is having trouble standing himself for going along with the blind date itself.
The “Good Guy” title feels sarcastic at this moment. While the language on paper is celebratory, the vocal filtering and delivery give us the impression Frank is toasting with an empty champagne glass.
All these inferences lead us to the second line: “Said if I was in NY I should look you up.” Here we establish setting and distance. Of course, the second line depends upon the third (“First time I’d ever saw you”) to sink in. That’s not to forget Frank’s garbled sigh to cap off the emotional strain of the song.
Taking the second and third lines together, we assume the pair had been talking extensively before meeting. Meaning, it’s very likely Frank—no better than any other excitable romantic—has built up layers upon layers of assumptions and expectations of this person he had never met.
Now, we’re in New York, and it’s really happening. Recall long nights and frantic days spent trying to get to know someone in our digital world. Think of the anxiety that bubbles up in anticipation of that first meeting.
“Good Guy” works because it feels particularly modern in these early moments. This first arc of the song feels like a reading of the dating zeitgeist at large—how disconnected we can be from each other, though our desire for connection might be higher than ever before.
These proverbial oceans between us come to life on the fourth line, where Frank admits: “And you text nothing like you look.” Here, Frank establishes an internal conflict we’re all familiar with. Trying to bridge the gap between the texting world, the “talking stage” and the “dating stage,” so much is lost in translation.
By this point in “Good Guy,” only 20 seconds into the song, the world feels like it’s undoing itself. This brings us right to line five, where Frank returns with his sarcastic tone and his empty cheers.
“Here’s to the gay bar you took me to,” Frank says, bringing us back to line one’s mood. Frank’s disdain is overt. This date blows, but we’re trying anyway because we’re lonely and we need this to work out.
There’s a real sadness to the sixth line, “Here’s when I realized you talk so much more than I do.” Those oceans between us can become so expansive from the smallest of differences.
The scene feels so clear now. A dimly lit bar, sticky floors perhaps, and your date talking your ear off with you unsure of what to say, but wanting so badly for this to make sense. Perhaps you’re falling for their natural charisma, how they work the bar scene, and can carry on any old conversation.
Frank is falling, but not because this is a match. Rather, Frank is allowing himself to be mystified because he so very badly wants to get away from himself. That’s why there is a twinge of disgust in his delivery because Frank is sick of his loneliness leading him into shit bars with the wrong people.
Now, lines seven and eight can only be taken together. “Here’s to the highlights when I was convinced / That this was much more than just some night shit,” Frank says, admonishing himself.
Again, the false celebration and the sarcasm overtake the “Here’s to,” but this time, the tone is far more scathing. Frank is reeling.
There’s a subtle venom to these two lines, how Frank appears sick with himself for believing this evening could be more than it so clearly was. The way Frank delivers “some night shit,” too, almost sounds like “I’m so nauseous.”
Overtop lone piano chords, Frank stands opposite himself in the worst way. These are the pangs of a shitty night out of wanting for more after spending so much time alone.
Writer Charles Bukowski has a book of poems called You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense, and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a more accurate sentence to describe the scene of “Good Guy.”
Everything comes to a head on the penultimate line, “I know you don’t need me right now,” where Frank finally comes into the consciousness of the situation at hand. The way he wails the “I” as if he’s being hit while trying to sing says it all—Frank is at the lowest of lows.
The lights are suddenly too bright to handle, the talking too much to stomach. Expectations were not met, layers have thawed away. All that’s left is the truth of a shitty night out: “And to you it’s just a late night out.”
In just 10 lines, Frank tells the heartbreaking story of a romantic hopelessly trying to strike a connection with someone who couldn’t care less. At every turn, our hearts hurt for Frank Ocean, who is so angry with himself during the retelling.
“Good Guy” successfully takes us out of the Blonde universe for a single minute and brings us into a far off world where Frank’s mistakes are so deadly to his security, he can barely make words. “Good Guy” is a cautionary tale of the miserable places loneliness can take us.
So, here’s to every night wasted on someone not worth our time. Here’s to Frank’s pen. Here’s to “Good Guy” stomping on our souls and flushing out all hope. Here’s to Blonde. Here’s to…