Solange Knowles has come a long way since her music career started over 15 years ago. She now releases a project that has been worked on for the past three years, tackling boiling topics pertaining to life, culture and society.
You may recognize her from temporary runs with Destiny’s Child, or maybe from any of her 3 previous albums, spanning release dates between 2002 to 2012. Odds are if you are unaware of Solange, you are very aware of her superstar sister, Beyonce. Solange has always had to live with being compared to Beyonce, but Solange claims herself that they are both different characters with very different goals, something that often reveals itself when comparing their music. If you were to browse through Solange’s or Beyonce’s past releases, the music certainly wouldn’t give you a great idea of what is to come on this latest album, ‘A Seat at the Table’.
Inspiration and substance
’A Seat at the Table’ is over 21 tracks and still under an hours length, something that is uncommon in music. The album pulls this off by placing a short interlude track between nearly every song. These interludes contain important messages from people close to Solange, including her own parents, and artists such as Sampha and legendary music mogul Master P. Each interlude plays perfectly into the song that precedes or follows it, an exception being the closing track ‘The Chosen Ones’.
Half-minute interludes aside, the other half of the album is packed with substantial music. The opening track, ‘Rise’ was actually debuted at a live event over a year ago amidst the killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Though current day racial-injustices didn’t completely inspire the album, what did inspire the album was Solange’s entire life of witnessing racial-injustices, herself and around her, and these current day events only added to the conversation that she wanted to have.
Voice of an angel, words of a poet
Solange carries a good number of the tracks with her lovely, angelic voice. With cuts like ‘Weary’, ‘Where Do We Go’, and ‘Don’t Wish Me Well’, she showcases an especially beautiful voice, playing with a usually saddening lyrical concept. ‘Cranes in the Sky’, another lovely song that was actually written eight years ago, probably gets close to pushing the limits of how high Solange can sing.
Perhaps playing a more important role than Solange’s singing is her lyrics. On ‘Don’t You Wait’ Solange battles with her critics, and on ‘Mad’, she explains how watching such a corrupt world around you can literally drive you “mad”, ending with the line “I ran into this girl, I said I’m tired of explaining, man this shit is draining, but I’m not really allowed to be mad.” Lil Wayne appears on this song bringing a heavy verse for one of the more exciting moments on the project. In the current climate it feels as if Wayne is the perfect collaboration for this song. You can feel the emotion in his flows, and he brings several lines that expresses his recent struggles, rapping about using lean and xans, everyone around him pulling him down with pressure, and other things like problems with the law, a giant financial lawsuit, and general public image issues. Lil Wayne no question has a lot to be mad about.
’Don’t Touch My Hair’ has an important lesson as well, where Solange shares her thoughts on her hair and the cultural history behind it. Another song with incredibly real lyrics is ‘F.U.B.U.’, a track where Solange attempts to bring black empowerment to a global level. She does this by creating an anthem that points out things that may not be obvious to every single person, white people in particular, and that is not everything is for them.
Instrumentally contradicting yet complementing
Some of the instrumentals on ‘A Seat at the Table’ come to contradict the themes of the music in a way, like on ‘Weary’, or ‘Cranes in the Sky’, which both have a surprisingly playful instrumentals at times, characterized by an assortment of sounds such as pianos, drums, and synthesizers used simplistically to compliment the wholesome vocals on any given track.
Over the course of the album, the synthesizers that are used tend to contradict the raw and natural element that the other instruments bring, and at the same time push the feel to be a bit more modern, providing trancey and sometimes groovy undertones, like on the song ‘Junie’. Besides synths, the use of guitar, drums and piano are a staple of this project, usually providing a pleasant yet concentrated sound, sometimes accompanied by horns that always seem to hit the spot.
’A Seat at the Table’ is an outcome of Solange’s journey through life, and is a wonderful piece of art that is the result of the times we are living through.
With ‘A Seat at the Table’, Solange presents important lessons and experiences that are portrayed over a calm and sensible backdrop. Whether you agree with what she’s saying or not, it does not matter. The thoughts and feelings Solange sings about are relevant to her and her people at the very least, and understanding that is a meaningful life lesson. This album is historic as well, hitting the number one spot on the billboard charts, making Solange and Beyonce to be the first sisters ever to both have a number one album. We here at Keakie believe this album will go down to be a memorable one for 2016, and possibly for years to come with its honesty and focus on artistry.
Fall in love with this album today, and check out the amazing e-book she released with it!
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