It’s been nearly two months since Frank Ocean released visual album Endless and audio album Blond/e. Opening track Nikes was released just ahead of the full album, alongside a beautiful video accompaniment.
One of the most interesting sonic tweaks on the album, which experimented freely with effects, production, samples and auto-tune, was the liberal use of pitch shifting. Rap lines and melodic phrases were both pitch shifted up throughout several songs. As someone who typically dislikes it, I found it to be a great example of how pitch shifting can be utilised beautifully – much like how Bon Iver shows us the merit in auto-tune.
I wouldn’t change a thing about this album, but I’ve always wondered what it might sound like without the pitch shifting. Luckily, the internet exists, so a copy of Nikes pitched down has appeared online, to roughly where it would lie naturally.
It’s the video version, not the album version. The entire track is pitched down, so the other layers do sound pretty weird, including that additional vocal layer that’s only on the video, and the final verse, which was originally released at a normal pitch. These are now so low that they enter trap territory, but that core melody is here, naked as the day it was born. (kinda).