Eight years on from the groovy, upbeat album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, Solange Knowles has emerged with a clean, crystal cut album full of emotion and thought.
Solange Knowles has invited us to A Seat at the Table, a musical experience where many of us remain but a spectator to the stories of racism in America, we are nowhere near familiar with. In the 21 songs off her third album, Solange tells us stories of her anger, sadness, anxiety and despair at not being understood because of her colour in today’s society.
She opens with ‘Rise’, a light, feathery tune with an underlying call for people to unify together before emerging into a confessional ‘Weary’ – aptly named – singing as a woman of 30 years of age who cannot pretend she is not hurt at the “ways of the world” today.
A Seat at the Table is decorated with a number of interludes including appearances from parents Matthew Knowles and Tina Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Q-Tip, all asking for the appreciation of black lives and black beauty. These spoken word parts really make this album feel like an honest, confessional storybook we have not read before.
Solange carries the same honest narrative with ‘Cranes in the Sky’ – a tale of escapism, a confession of drinking, partying and daydreaming many of us can attest to when we don’t want to deal with the bigger issues in life. Solange brings us back down to earth with punchier songs illustrating the pent up frustration the black community feels in songs like ‘Mad’ ft. Lil’ Wayne, ‘Don’t You Wait’ and the striking ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, a song demanding privacy and respect when it comes to one’s own body.
Following an expression of anger, Solange hits us with “F.U.B.U” – ft. The-Dream and BJ the Chicago, a jazzy ensemble where black people celebrate themselves. Solange temporarily returns to her 70s vibes in ‘Junie’, a dancy soul jam which takes the happiest, most celebratory tone of the album.
‘Don’t Wish Me Well’ returns to the dreamy electronic tone, a very Kelela-sounding track which makes sense as Kelela lends her vocals to the next song ‘Scales’.
‘Scales’ is a slower, darker, twisted sound to finish the album, a pensive insight into the mind of Solange, who may be one of the most thoughtful artists in the business today.
If Beyoncé gave us Lemonade, Solange gives us iced tea with A Seat at Table – a sensation that took longer to prepare but with less production. A Seat at The Table is honest, strong, hopeful with hidden punches that you would not detect until the second hearing of the album.