Let’s get it out of the way: Solange is the younger sister of Beyoncé. Her voice at times sounds like her older sister’s and they are both R&B artists. Now, this is the last time you’ll read about Beyoncé in this review; any more would be incredibly disrespectful to Solange and her beautiful project A Seat at the Table.
Solange has never been a soft-spoken woman. She constantly speaks her mind and lets everyone know when she’s displeased (i.e. fighting Jay-Z in the elevator). A Seat at the Table is Solange not asking, but demanding that we hear what she has to say on a wide variety of issues ranging from racial inequalities, the role women play in society, and dealing with the pains of life. The most poignant example of how Solange demands the audience have a dialogue with her music is on the song "Don’t Touch my Hair." The song is about the common experience black people go through being an outcast in society when the most basic of traits — hair texture — is put under a microscope by their white counterparts and then touched without consent as though it’s a compliment. Solange does an outstanding job singing about this interaction that is way too commonplace in black people’s lives, causing us to be self-aware and self-conscious about how different we really are in society. The song’s message is amplified by the preceding track where Tina Lawson (Solange’s mother) gives this spoken word introduction to the song:
"It's such beauty in Black people, and it really saddens me when we're not allowed to express that pride in being Black, and that if you do, then it's considered anti-white. No! You just pro-black. And that's okay. The two don't go together. Because you celebrate Black culture does not mean that you don't like white culture or that you putting it down. It's just taking pride in it, but what's irritating is when somebody says, you know, 'They're racist!', 'That's reverse racism!' or 'They have a Black History Month, but we don't have a White History Month!'
"Well, all we've ever been taught is white history. So, why are you mad at that? Why does that make you angry? That is to suppress me and to make me not be proud."
Another moment on the album where Solange lets us into her personal, intimate feelings is on "Cranes in the Sky." The song delves into how she has dealt with all the insecurities and pain in her life, going into detail on alcoholism, debt and anxiety in an attempt to handle all the feelings and emotions a young adult goes through in the maturation process of growing up.
Solange also makes prudent moves by adding an amazing team of producers to compile a sonic flurry of funk, psychedelic soul, R&B and synth-pop sounds to serve as the perfect backdrop to everything she has to say. Raphael Saadiq is an executive producer on A Seat at the Table and you can really hear his influence on the album with "Where Do We Go," a stripped-down R&B beat where the piano and drums act as the driving force that pushes Solange along as she agonizes over the feelings of black people when no want wants them to live in their neighborhoods. Another track where Saadiq does an extraordinary job is on "Junie," an unbelievably catchy funk groove, further emphasized by André 3000 jumping onto the chorus in a falsetto singing, "Jump on it!"
There are a million of other intricacies on A Seat at the Table that we will be analyzing and enjoying for many years to come. One thing I know now is that Solange has created a career-defining album. She made the pro-black, coming-of-age piece of art this generation needed; it’s so refreshing to see an artist (especially an artist to have a No. 1 album) who is making the songs we need to hear instead of the songs we want to hear.
by Bryce Browning
Song You Need To Hear: "Don't Touch My Hair
Saint Records / Columbia
A Seat At The Table