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Apple's Big Frank Ocean Exclusive Isn't What You Expected

Last night (Aug. 18) at 10:05pm Eastern Time, it appeared that the wait was finally over. The Apple Music-hosted stream of R&B singer and songwriter Frank Ocean working in a wood-work studio started to play again, and when his fans crowded around their computers, it sounded like Ocean's long-awaited album Boys Don't Cry could be heard in the background. But everything was not as it appeared.

Image: BoysDontCry.co / Apple Music

Image: BoysDontCry.co / Apple Music

This video played for two hours. In that time, the album in the background played twice, and Ocean constructed a circular wooden staircase that looked oddly similar to the glass stairs in most Apple stores. The album sounded potentially amazing, featuring previously previewed songs such as "Seeing Double" (now called "Commes Des Garcons") and a cover of The Isley Brothers' ''At Your Best (You Are Love)'."

Right as the clock was about to strike midnight (when most fans predicted the album would become available), news broke that this wasn't Boys Don't Cry at all, but instead an Apple-exclusive "visual album" entitled Endless. According to Rolling Stone, Ocean and Apple Music will release a full album (possibly the one fans expected to get last night), but he's dropped the title "Boys Don't Cry," in favor of an alternate title. The New York Times reported that the album will likely be a windowed exclusive, making Apple Music the only place to hear it for its first two weeks.

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At first, the news that Frank Ocean's long-awaited album -- arguably the most anticipated release of 2015 -- being an Apple Music exclusive seemed to be yet another boon for the company. Until that record comes out, Apple Music just seems like an enabler of Ocean's tendencies to tease fans and snatch the goods away before he can deliver.

Most recently, the singer and Apple Music failed to release the album on August 5th, after the New York Times announced that supposed release date on August 1st. That was the week where Apple and Ocean launched the stream that previewed Endless, a tease that led Ocean fan Nick Karpov to create a motion detector that monitored the stream and post to Twitter any time it detected a change.

But for the time being, Endless may be enough to tide some fans over. The final version of the video differs slightly from the one that was streamed, and its sound quality is far superior. Endless is full of noteworthy collaborators, as “At Your Best (You Are Love)” features Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood as well as English singer/song-writer James Blake. The visual album was produced and mastered by Mike Dean, a frequent collaborator of Kanye West.

This very confusing release is starting to grate on some Frank Ocean fans I talked to while Endless streamed last night. A friend who asked not to be named said "I think I hate Frank Ocean now. Genuinely hate him." If an album actually comes out this weekend and it's anywhere near as good as what he previewed in Endless, those gripes could be silenced. But it's an uphill battle created by self-inflicted mistakes.