Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange: Why Target Won’t Carry It

Retailer cites the album's early release on iTunes as motivation to no longer stock the physical version when it is released next Tuesday.

Last week, Frank Ocean made headlines when he detailed a previous relationship with a man , a revelation that spawned discussion about the state of hip-hop in 2012 and earned him praise from many of his contemporaries.

In the days since, he’s remained in the headlines thanks to a powerful performance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and his equally impactful Channel Orange album, which has garnered near-universal acclaim from fans and critics alike. But Ocean’s decision to release the album on iTunes Monday — one week ahead of its July 17 street date — may have caused a momentary lapse in all the goodwill. Because in doing so, he’s run afoul of one of the nation’s largest music retailers: Target.

According to Ocean’s manager, Christian Clancy, the early release of Channel Orange means that Target will no longer stock the physical version of the album when it is released next Tuesday. Though, the way he sees it, that decision may also have something to do with his client’s recent revelation.

“Target has refused to carry Frank’s album because of iTunes exclusive,” Clancy wrote in a (since-deleted) tweet. “Interesting since they also donate to non-equal rights organizations.”

In 2010, Target was the subject of a boycott organized by MoveOn.org after it was revealed that the Minneapolis-based retailer donated $150,000 to the political group Minnesota Forward, which backed several candidates across the state, including gubernatorial hopeful Tom Emmer, who reportedly supported an anti-gay ministry. It was not clear whether Clancy was referring to that particular donation in his tweet, and while MTV News’ attempts to contact him for clarification proved unsuccessful, he’s subsequently written another message that reads:

“Note to self: Take your own advice. Emotional knee-jerk reacting isn’t the move.”

It bears mention that Target does stock albums by openly gay artists like Adam Lambert and Elton John, and in recent months, began selling gay pride T-shirts, with proceeds going to the Family Equality Council, which supports the rights of LGBT parents. Though, from the sound of things, at least one of Clancy’s points was spot-on: they won’t be selling Channel Orange.

In a statement to MTV News, Target explained its reasoning: “At Target, we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, so our selection of new releases is dedicated to physical CDs rather than titles that are released digitally in advance of the street date.”

In additional comments to MTV News, Target denounced Clancy’s assertions. “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,” the statement continued. “Our history of partnering with diverse artists includes recent partnerships with a variety of musicians, such as Ricky Martin, B.o.B., and Gloria Estefan.”

Of course, it appears that the company does make special exceptions to that rule: In 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne (which, coincidentally, features a pair of contributions from Ocean) was released via iTunes four days ahead of its scheduled street date. That move angered several retailers, though it is currently available for purchase in Target stores.

A spokesperson for Target did not respond to MTV News’ request for explanation on the matter.