Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” & Letting Go

The sincerity of Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” reminds us of the permanence of love, and love’s ability to transform itself and us into new people.
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Letting go appears as one of the final steps of healing. When you’re able to relinquish bitterness and wish someone well, that’s real growth. It’s not a requirement—no two paths of healing will ever look the same—but it is a novel moment for Frank Ocean as he approaches the conclusion of Blonde with the penultimate track, “Godspeed.” 

Produced by Malay, Om’Mas Keith, James Blake, and Frank Ocean, on “Godspeed,” we finally reach the point in Blonde where Frank walks into the present. Though Blonde works as a series of vivid memories, both “Godspeed” and the closer, “Futura Free,” take place in the immediate moment of Frank Ocean’s life at the time of writing.

Frank Ocean begins “Godspeed” by allowing his grief to be a part of him: “I will always love you, how I do.” The acceptance of a persisting love, and not allowing it to morph into hatred, gives us the impression Frank Ocean has used all of Blonde to cope, and we’re finally on the other side of his broken heart. 

They say acceptance is the first step towards any and all self-actualization. Here, Frank is bounding forward. The following two lines (“Let go of a prayer for you / Just a sweet word”) prove our reading even further. To pray for someone who has hurt you so profoundly requires a dedication to personal growth otherwise unfounded on Blonde.

Wishing you godspeed, glory / There will be mountains you won’t move / (Ooh, ooh, ooh) / Still I’ll always be there for you, how I do / I let go of my claim on you” —Frank Ocean, “Godspeed”

Frank Ocean’s recognition and consideration of the partner he is leaving behind makes “Godspeed” feel revolutionary. His understanding of ownership’s unhealthy qualities on the first verse, coupled with his humanizing his once-lover (“There will be mountains you won’t move”), feels like a grand opening for Frank. He is practicing vulnerability in a fresh way, which, nearly an hour into his opus, is commendable. 

The structure of always being there, how it mimics the construction of the first line of “Godspeed,” with the pulsing pause of preceding “How I do,” signifies Frank Ocean establishing boundaries. We applaud him because he’s struggled with boundaries across his discography. Just look at the hopeless pining of “Solo.”

The literal letting go makes “Godspeed” critical to Frank Ocean’s canon. He is not being obtuse on these lines. To read “Godspeed” is to read plainly—not much guesswork is involved in parsing this song. This simplicity is intentional. If Blonde was a battle through memory for peace, “Godspeed” is the white flag raised to signal the end of fighting. Frank is done wrestling with himself by “Godspeed.” He no longer needs to remember, and he no longer vies to forget. He simply exists in his present, at peace, and whole. The making and experience of Blonde runs parallel to Frank Ocean’s ultimate pursuit of wholeness. Go figure.

It’s a free world / You look down on where you came from sometimes / But you’ll have this place to call home always,” Frank reminds his former lover to close the first verse. The subtleties of these three lines swirl together to remind us this is, after all, a Frank Ocean song. There must be some ceremony to Frank’s farewell and his promises. Each line of “Godspeed” builds upon the promise of the next, with the ultimate swear of the song being Frank’s letting go, carrying on, and remembering in healthy ways.

Frank Ocean constructing himself as a shelter across the first verse does not come across as a moment of martyrdom. Rather, the imagery feels closer to Frank allowing the death of the romantic relationship to blossom into a new and more fulfilling relationship, which accounts for the bridge’s key line: “This love will keep us through blinding of the eyes.” 

Though the final voice we hear on “Godspeed” is Kim Burrell’s, we can still glean something from Frank’s decision to cede space. Specifically, we get the sense Frank no longer needs to get the last word. He’s comfortable in his newfound freedom as a man without the burden of heartbreak.

“Godspeed” is foundational to Blonde, because only through the journey of Blonde could it come to exist. The song is a pillar of the album without pretense. The song feels like Frank Ocean saying, “I hope you’re happy now,” without any venom to his tone. The sincerity of “Godspeed” reminds us of the permanence of love, and love’s ability to transform itself and us into new people.

Of course, this reading would be nothing without the invoking of poet, podcaster, and screenwriter, Tommy Pico, whose Teebs tetralogy follows a similar path to Frank Ocean’s Blonde. In particular, the transition from Pico’s Junk into his latest book, Feed, mirrors Frank Ocean’s transition from the mire of Blonde’s earlier tracks into the gentle swell of “Godspeed.”

Speaking on the growth of his narrator, Tommy Pico has said: “I look at the narrator in Junk, and I see a person who definitely can imagine a path toward solace, but who is still spinning out and exhausted. He sees the potential for family and nourishment and nutrition but doesn’t know how to get there yet. Feed was a natural expression of that revelation, and enacting a practice to see it to its culmination.”

“Godspeed” is Frank Ocean “enacting a practice,” as Pico explained. The song is Frank’s ultimate letting go and embrace of the present. We spend so much time fighting with our past selves and imagining our future selves that we give little country to our present. On “Godspeed,” Frank slows down and embraces the grandiosity of the right now; there’s freedom to be had in the right now. 

Of course, Blonde is not outright about the pursuit of freedom. When we set out on our Blonde journey, neither the narrator nor the listener knows where, exactly, we are heading. That said, the arrival of “Godspeed” feels natural. We believe in Frank Ocean’s growth. The present feels stable, safe, and secure.

Forgetting the good times is the great trepidation of letting go. With “Godspeed,” Frank Ocean reminds us there’s no written rule stating we must abandon love, we simply must re-shape it to a more fitting image. That’s work, to be sure, but it is work that feels worthy. Quietly, then, “Godspeed” is a call to action for the listener. More than anything, though, “Godspeed” is a mighty exhale. “Godspeed” is a great bout of relief. Such is its glory—and the glory of Blonde.

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