No Surprises Left: Notes From Frank Ocean’s Pop-Up Shop

We came, we saw, we stood in line for a zine

Twitter said there was a Frank Ocean pop-up shop, so we headed to the Frank Ocean pop-up shop. At first, when word got out on Saturday night that the musician had set up impromptu locations to distribute something having to do with Blonde, his long-awaited album, in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, and New York City, I stared at my phone, debating whether I really felt like leaving my apartment to go stand in yet another line. Another pop-up shop meant another chance to see hype beasts finesse for line position, another day to see people flood social media just to commemorate the fact that they were, in fact, standing in line. I sent a tweet of my own asking if this one was worth my time, but by the time I hit the submit button I was stepping out of the door.

America’s appropriately brief love affair with pop-up shops is showing signs of waning as the summer of 2016 draws to its close. Kanye West, Drake, Future, and Justin Bieber have all set up similar mini-outlets to sell exclusive merch in the last few months, and while the lines remain long, the initial novelty has been lost. On Friday, Kanye opened up his second round of Pablo pop-up shops in anticipation of his upcoming Saint Pablo tour. One could spy nu-Pablo merch sprinkled throughout the line even as one overheard numerous conversations dismissing Kanye’s latest efforts. The next day, at Frank’s New York pop-up location, we learned that we were waiting for a mysterious zine — the same one he promised last spring, when Blonde was still Boys Don’t Cry. Even though the zine was being given away for free, there was a certain sense of malaise in the crowd as we went through the same old ritual of swarming a random location and waiting, and waiting some more.

But once the line outside the Lower East Side location curled around the next corner, it began to move briskly. It was a welcome contrast from all the waiting we did for the album itself — the months in which we created online memes about our anticipation, and even Snapchat made a filter devoted to Frank’s lack of a new album. On Saturday, that frustration was finally gone: With the album released on iTunes and Apple Music in the early evening, just as the line was forming, a few people began blasting the album off their respective phones. The time passed quickly before we entered the space he’d chosen, a former corner store that had been converted with shelves to hold the zine, along with a few video screens looping the video for “Nikes.” The space was nice, but sparse.

On my way in, I chatted with a friend about the next line, wherever it might be, and who might inspire it. Taylor Swift? Lady Gaga? Beyoncé or Rihanna could, for sure, but they already put out records this year. Even thinking about the pop-up shops still to come in our future felt a bit exhausting. Once I picked up the zine, I headed to a bar to meet my friend, and handed her the copy I’d snagged. Then I ducked back home to listen to Blonde. There was a new Frank Ocean album in the world, and I was pretty sure that was why we were all standing around in the first place.