Arts & Culture

Solange’s new album explores self, hometown

Solange Knowles’s highly-anticipated fourth album showcases her dream-like sonic power

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Working with arists such as Gucci Mane, Pharrell, Playboi Carti, Dev Hynes and Panda Bear, Solange Knowles released her first album since 2016. Her songs celebrate black identity and her hometown of Houston, Texas.

On March 1, singer and songwriter Solange Knowles, known mononymously as Solange, released “When I Get Home,” a follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2016 album “A Seat at the Table.” In “When I Get Home,” Solange meditates on the vague, the ambient and the imaginary to invoke both her hometown of Houston, Texas, and the black identity.

With collaborators and co-producers like Gucci Mane, Pharrell, Playboi Carti, Dev Hynes and Panda Bear, “When I Get Home” boasts a high-profile production team. At the same time, the album weaves a personal dreamscape of identity and home. Both minimalistic and lush, the album utilizes mantras, back-and-forth beats and liberating delivery as well as various samples, features and synthesizer flourishes. Another example of Solange’s oxymoronic musicality lies in her ability to conjure a voice that lingers between elusiveness and clear deliberation throughout the album.

In tracks like “My Skin My Logo,” Solange repeats the G consonant in chant-like statements set to a swinging beat. As Gucci Mane interweaves short phrases with Solange’s rhythmic lines, the track becomes a sublime soundscape that draws the listener into the image of Houston she creates throughout her album. The repetition, resembling a broken record, drills Solange’s message about branding and materialism as it relates to identity into the listener’s memory.

In the fan favorite track “Almeda,” named after a location in Houston, Solange elaborates more on the concepts of familiarity and self through her lyrics. Solange casually sings “brown skin, brown face / brown leather, brown sugar… / black skin, black braids / black waves, black days.” Accompanied by the lax, free-flowing verses of Playboi Carti and The-Dream, the artists’ sounds meld into an intricate artistry, illustrating a stylistic homage to Houston rap and an acclaim to black identity.

Solange’s creative prowess in cultivating a complete album is further exemplified in the seamless interludes interspersed throughout the album. In the leading track, “Things I Imagined,” Solange introduces the gray area between the Houston of her memory and that of reality by repeating “I saw things I imagined.” Following immediately,  “S McGregor (interlude)” references a Houston street while sampling a well-known reading of the poem “On Status” by Vivian Ayers-Allen, a Pulitzer prize-nominated black woman poet from Houston. These snippets of spoken word, voiced by Ayers-Allen’s daughters Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, masterfully paint Solange’s personal Houston in a way that allows her home to seem familiar to listeners.

The sketch of Houston that Solange paints through her transcendent lyrics and surreal sound is simultaneously ambiguous and exact. Bare voice and 90s-esque beats characterize the singer-songwriter’s mastery in evoking human memory through music. Perhaps Solange best describes the multi-layered sonic space of her album in “Can I Hold The Mic (interlude),”  during which she confidently states to the listener: “I can’t be a singular expression of myself / there’s too many parts, too many spaces / too many manifestations, too many lines / too many curves / too many troubles / too many journeys, too many mountains / too many rivers, so many.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*