Coming back home to Solange

Darragh McNally

R&B singer-songwriter (and sister of the legendary Beyoncé Knowles) returns with her fourth studio album When I Get Home, a serene yet stirring collection of nineteen smooth electronica-infused R&B tracks. Like her previous breakthrough opus, 2016’s A Seat at The Table, When I Get Home serves as both a tribute to Knowles’ hometown of Houston, Texas, and a celebration of black people and their culture in an ever-increasingly tense political environment.

When I Get Home opens with the lush electronic soundscape of ‘Things I Imagined’, which serves as a great introduction to this album’s mood and tone. The chopped and screwed vocal samples of interlude ‘S. McGregor’ lead into the track ‘Down with The Clique’, where Knowles breathily sings about community and exclusivity over jazzy piano stabs and skittering hi-hats. Following this track is ‘Way to The Show’, a straight up R&B slow-jam. ‘Can I Hold the Mic’ is another interlude, featuring Knowles describing the layers of herself and her personality, which leads straight into ‘Stay Flo’, a smooth trap number with one of the catchiest hooks on the album.

‘Dreams’ is an ode to the power of having a goal to stride towards (“They go a long way”), followed by ‘Almeda’, where “black things (…) can’t be washed away (…) not even in that Florida water.” ‘Time (Is)’ finds Solange crooning over a stark piano instrumental, with following track ‘My Skin My Logo’ acting as a celebration of black wealth and opulence. ‘Jerrod’ is an electronica-sound tracked ballad where Solange tells of her commitment to a lover, which smoothly transitions into ‘Binz’, an up-tempo track detailing Solange’s desires. ‘Beltway’ is a woozy, spaced-out piano number with Solange telling the listener that “They’ll love (her)”. The following interlude ‘Exit Scott’ features smooth bass licks and a gospel choir sample, leading into ‘Sound of Rain’, a steadily-paced trap track. Interlude ‘Not Screwed!’ features more chopped and screwed vocal samples, while album closer ‘I’m A Witness’ is a calming end to the record.

The album is another intriguing listen, a record that is content with slowly unravelling its mysteries to the listener, rather than hitting them over the head straight out of the gate with its messages of black pride and subjugation. It is celebratory of African-American culture, with Solange highlighting and celebrating characteristics of black people on tracks including ‘My Skin My Logo’, ‘Stay Flo’ and ‘Almeda’ (“Black skin, black braids, black waves, black days (…) these are black-owned things.”).

Solange’s new album When I Get Home serves as a record of the frustration in being a minority in Trump’s America and serves to empower those who struggle in a nation gone mad. It continues Solange’s winning streak of low-key, atmospheric, and rewarding records, proving that, like her multi-millionaire sister, she is a force to be reckoned with, a hugely creative talent that serves as a breath of fresh air in a steadily stagnating music industry obsessed with streams and virality.

In short, the album is brilliant, and while it may not have the impact and flawless pacing of its predecessor, When I Get Home is still a remarkable achievement for the singer.

Rating: ★★★★★

Darragh McNally

Image Credit: billboard.ie