I'm still thinking about Blonde. I'm thinking about the cameo from his mom, and about the transition in "Nights," obviously, and the flawless sequence of "Nikes," "Ivy" and "Pink + White." But I'm thinking a lot about how Frank is playing with the boundaries of the gender binary and the dualisms that exist in his own psyche.
The album is technically titled Blonde (like, how it shows up on Apple Music), but some images and promotional content represent it as "blond." He's switching back and forth between the masculine and feminine versions of the French word. And then, in the cover art, Frank isn't even blonde! His hair is green! Which is not typically a hyper-gendered color like pink or blue. It's somewhere a little bit in between.
In the video for "Nikes," Frank does yet another interesting thing: he adds another voice to the two that already exist. The song is mostly sung with Frank's voice in a distortedly higher pitch—in the video, it's introduced with a voiceover from Frank speaking in a much lower pitch, mumbling his now pseudo-catchphrase, "I got two versions." This voiceover continues throughout, laid on top of the original vocals and sort of narrating the visuals. It cuts off when Frank's normal voice takes over at the end.
In the video, Frank is seen wearing eyeliner, covered in glitter, and self-immolating. There's a massive variety of other people, too, boasting different races and body types. The video is smooth and visually appealing, but also jarring in its honesty.
I could spend hours dissecting every single frame of this video and every chord progression of this album; it would be foolish, at this point, to think that anything Frank does is accidental. As he asserted with the visual album Endless—as he slowly, literally, and anti-climactically built a staircase—his work is calculated.
But even at first glance, it's clear to me that Frank is making a number of observations and assertions about gender, sexuality, diversity, acceptance, race, class, and our assumptions about all these things. With Blonde and the "Nikes" video, he has created a world very intentionally two-pronged and double-edged.
It's interesting to me that even after publicly owning his queerness, Frank hasn't made any statements or clarifications about it since. In Blonde, we can hear him make many more explicit references to gay relationships than he did in Channel Orange, but he remains resolute in his decision not to label himself.
I think my biggest takeaway here is that rather than asserting a binary in society, we must admit that binaries (and, thusly, a never-ending fluctuation between two extremes) exist within us individually. Frank claims both "blonde" and "blond," both his high voice and his low, both feminine and masculine; he inserts a cautionary voicemail from his mother and then sings about buying drugs; he essentially "comes out" and then feels uncomfortable when his date takes him to a gay bar; in "Ivy," he is both the heartbroken and the heartbreaker. Frank shows us that we can be all sorts of things all at once, and we don't need to box ourselves in.
In keeping with Libra season, fluctuation and flexibility are noted skills. Being able to embrace conflicting ideas and create balance is a skill. And ultimately (I think and hope), these skills lend themselves to self-acceptance and tolerance of others.
Photos found on Tumblr.