Why Won’t Target Stock Frank Ocean’s New Album?

Gay rights activists want an explanation for why the chain has declined to carry the recently out R&B singer's debut CD.

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Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

Frank Ocean performs at day 1 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at The Empire Polo Club on April 20, 2012 in Indio, California.

Though Ocean’s Channel Orange skyrocketed to number one on iTunes after its early release on July 10 and has remained there since, the album won’t be hitting the shelves of one of the nation’s largest retail chains. Target claims that the move is a business decision in response to the album’s early release date on iTunes, not because Frank Ocean recently revealed details of his sexuality in a blog post.

Ocean came out on July 3rd on his Tumblr by posting lyrics from a song on his album that referred to falling in love with a man at age 19. Ocean’s manager, Christian Clancy, implied in a tweet on Tuesday that Ocean’s coming out influenced Target’s decision: “Target has refused to carry Frank’s album because of iTunes exclusive. Interesting since they also donate to non-equal rights organizations.” The Tweet was quickly deleted and has since been recanted. Clancy apologized for his initial reaction in another series of tweets:

[tweet http://twitter.com/christianclancy/status/223180840014856194%5D

[tweet http://twitter.com/christianclancy/status/223181458968297473%5D

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Target has issued a statement to Billboard.biz denying any connection between Ocean’s sexuality and their decision:

“The claims made about Target’s decision to not carry the Frank Ocean album are absolutely false. Target supports inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business. Our assortment decisions are based on a number of factors, including guest demand. Target has a longstanding tradition of supporting music and artistry that reflects the diverse landscape of American culture. Out history of partnering with diverse artists includes recent partnerships with a variety of musicians, such as Ricky Martin, B.o.B., and Gloria Estefan.”

The retail giant believes the iTunes release of the album would have hurt its physical sales. However, Target stores did carry Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album, Watch the Throne, which debuted as an iTunes digital exclusive before physical copies were sold in stores. Ocean appears twice on the Watch the Throne album, though he had not publicly revealed his sexual preferences when that album was released.

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Though the early release of Channel Orange on iTunes the night of Ocean’s performance on Jimmy Fallon was marketed as a surprise, an unnamed Def Jam Recordings representative and a Late Night with Jimmy Fallon booker told Entertainment Weekly that the July 10 release been in the works for weeks. “The announcement of the early digital release was part of the plan from the very beginning,” booker Jonathan Cohen said. Neither Target nor Def Jam have commented on whether Target knew about the iTunes exclusive before July 10. Though the album’s CD version was not scheduled to go on sale until July 17, Universal has told physical retailers to start selling the album as soon as they receive it.

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This is not the first time the LGBT community has accused Target of discrimination: Last year Lady Gaga, an outspoken advocate of gay rights, ended her partnership with the retailer over its donations to political candidates and conservative groups who oppose gay-rights legislation and the legalization of gay marriage. The deal with Gaga would have given Target exclusive rights to her Born This Way album, which went on to sell over two million copies in the U.S. The company later apologized for donating to the PAC of one gubernatorial candidate, Minnesota conservative Tom Emmer, and has recently produced a series of special-edition t-shirts in celebration of Gay Pride Week (although critics commented on the fact that the shirts were only available online, not in stores), with a portion of the proceeds from the shirts to the Family Equality Council, an LGBT advocacy group.

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