Frank Ocean doesn’t do straightforward; everything from his persona to his release strategy to his music itself is filled with intrigue and ambiguity. The shades of grey that define (or rather, can’t define) him as an artist are neatly encapsulated in the title of his new album. If the cover art is to be believed, it’s called “blond” – all lower-case, no “e”. But according to Apple Music and Ocean’s own Tumblr poster for his Boys Don’t Cry pop-up shops, its title is the six-letter word “Blonde” with an “e” on the end. Fans, understandably, are kind of confused.
Now, this discrepancy could represent a simple mistake or perhaps Ocean changing his mind at the last-minute, but a popular fan theory doing the rounds offers a much more interesting explanation. In French, blond is masculine and blonde is feminine – Olly Alexander is a blond man, whereas Sky Ferreira is a blonde woman. We generally uphold this distinction in British English too, or at least we’re supposed to, whereas in American English “blond” is now preferred regardless of gender. Therefore, according to the fan theory, Ocean could be using the album’s dual title to make a subtle point about the fluidity of gender and/or the fact he’s attracted to both men and women. This feels fitting for an artist who’s never attached a label to his sexuality and whose ‘Nikes’ video features glittery male and female nudity as well as Ocean sporting stylish winged eyeliner.
While it’s obviously possible that Ocean might decide to address the ongoing ‘Blond’ vs. ‘Blonde’ discussion on his Tumblr, few are holding their breath. In the meantime, we like the idea that Frank Ocean, a timeless talent with a hyper-modern mindset, is simply being true to the non-binary thinking that he and many of his fans endorse.