What about that Solange? Breathing rare air way up there with big sis Queen Bey is not easily achieved in a world where masculine energy, Trap music and Drake dominate the airwaves (not insurmountable for this Knowles sister either apparently.) Singer-songwriter Solange Knowles has finally broken through and earned a place with her latest submission appropriately titled, A Seat at the Table. As if to say it’s my turn now, Solange establishes herself as a lyrical storyteller with political perspectives (F.U.B.U.) and spiritual conflict overlapping romantic situations (Mad), negotiating love gone wrong and personal expectations (Weary).
While listening it doesn’t feel like a new sound more than an edification of recent really good R&B. I listened with a grateful ear imagining it were a millennial Jill Scott being visited by the spirit of Aaliyah’s potential struggling to come into one’s on in the context of today’s social climate (Crane’s in the Sky). You’ll choose your favorites quickly.
After her entry level offering “Solo Star” in 2003 there were questions on the street about her possibilities or dedication to the art. Back then she was just Beyoncé’s baby sister. It could’ve been residual glow and fall out from a star burning so brightly right in front of her. She wasn’t without layers on that album though considering one year later, at 17, she became a mother. So there had to be an inner dialogue brewing we thought. That evolution came in her second album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams (2008). Across the pond the U.K. kids cleaved to her style and maturing sensibilities. There was a catchy tune and video (I Decided), a Diana Ross and the Supreme-esque throwback with backdrops of confederate flags and Malcolm X, which made them, and us, notice, not only that there was talent, there is substance.
The American audience still, sometimes more preoccupied with fantasy than talent, needed time to disjoin the Knowles sisters in order for this third album to move at its current skyrocketing pace. A Seat at the Table is personal, emotionally revealing, and, at times, trance-like in its rhythmic patterns. We’ve been able to connect to the Knowleses because they’ve connected to us by sharing their experiences in the work. Here again, Solange intersperses her dulcet tracks with audio interludes of advice and musings from her her parents, and other notable artists and role models, sharing their POVs of Black culture and the specific obstacles with which African Americans wrestle to achieve their dreams.
Now that Solange’s dreams are coming true I want to know more about how she sees the world. This isn’t high octane Pop. This music is creamy, soulful, and groovy (Junie). Mostly, it’s thoughtful. Will she be headlining at the Super Bowl? Probably not. Nominated for a Grammy Award? Maybe. For now, topping the Billboard 200 is excellent validation and wholly-deserved.