Photos by Carlota Guerrero
Solange Knowles is a singer-songwriter, actress, and model. She was born and raised in Texas by her parents, both of whom spent much of their adult lives supporting her career, and that of her older sister, Beyoncé. To the mainstream (white) media, Solange was shadowed by her sister’s rise to superstardom and path to icon status. But Solange is not her sister. She does not deserve for people to introduce her as “Beyoncé’s sister” when discussing her. Her latest album, “A Seat at the Table”, is proof of this.
“A confessional autobiography and meditation on being black in America, this album finds Solange searching for answers within a set of achingly lovely tunes” – official iTunes Review
Track 1: Rise
Rise feels more like a poem than a song. Standing at a little over a minute and a half long, it is a shockingly beautiful introduction to an artist’s breakthrough album.
A Seat at the Table is not another mainstream album, and Weary is evidence of this. “He said ‘Where does that leave you?’ and do you belong? I do… I do.” It is here to stand its ground against the industry that has been fighting against her.
Track 3: The Glory is in You (Interlude)
This song was meant to encourage young artists. “Everybody is always talking about peace, but, as long as you find peace in what you doing then you successful, and that’s what people don’t realize”. People should not be raising their children to strive for careers that come with a good looking paycheck solely for the money. Society needs to remind itself that passion is the key to happiness.
The song is opened by the sound of drums that somehow sound as hurt as Solange does. Solange began to sing, beautifully, a few seconds into the song. Her voice is soft, as if she’s singing a lullaby, but the poetic lyrics were written from a place of pain, describing the cranes in the sky that she fears.
Track 5: Dad Was Mad (Interlude)
A recording of who is believed to Solange’s father speaking about anti black racism in the background while a piano is being played. Solange wanted her album to be political, to offend those oppressing others, and give a voice to the oppressed.
Solange sings of anger and forgiveness. She questions why people are asking her to let her anger go, and repeats what they are saying. “Where’d your love go, where’d your love go”. Larger than life rapper Lil’ Wayne, who everyone in the industry seems to eventually gravitate towards, makes an appearance. From Destiny’s Child, to Madonna, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez, he now joins Solange on her best album to date.
Track 7: Don’t You Wait
The lyrics have a mysterious energy to them. Solange does not say what “nothing” she was looking for, what she gave away, or what she is dealing with. What is clear is that she will lie in the mess she’s made, and she waves to redeem and forgive herself.
Track 8: Tina Taught Me (Interlude featuring her mother Tina Lawson)
In this interlude, Solange’s mother is the one speaking about the racism that black people face. “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.” It is a speech that many white people need to hear when they say “All Lives Matter” as a response to “Black Lives Matter”.
Weeks before releasing this album, Solange wrote an essay about the discrimination many people of color face in mostly white spaces. According to Solange, having your hair touched without permission is an attack that keeps the idea that black people, and their hair, are “different” alive. Solange proudly states that she is proud of her hair, and it should not be seen as something strange or different that people feel the need to inspect.
Track 10: This Moment (Interlude featuring Devonté Hynes and Lu)
In concept, there can be such a thing as too many interludes, but Solange is the exception. Each one so far addresses a necessary discussion of the discrimination of a group of people. This interlude conveys a message of identity and how people try to take it away.
Track 11: Where Do We Go (featuring Sean Nicholas Savage)
This song has some of the boldest lyrics on the album, tackling the struggles of communicating in a relationship.
Track 12: For Us By Us (Interlude featuring Master P)
Master P, founder of No Limit Records, the label that signed rap icon Snoop Dogg, speaks on how he grew up poor and become a wealthy adult through his label.
The-Dream, writer of Rihanna and Jay Z’s “Umbrella” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”, provides, yet again, hooks that can get stuck in one’s head for weeks.
Track 14: Borderline (An Ode to Self Care) [featuring Q-Tip]
A reminder to take a break, and remember why you are working.
Track 15: I Got So Much Magic, You Can Have It (Interlude) [featuring Kelly Rowland and Nia Andrews]
Twenty-six seconds of a Kelly Rowland feature is not enough. Only flaw on the album so far.
Track 16: Junie (featuring André 3000)
Solange’s call out song for people who do not want to work for their goals is beautifully designed with André 3000’s brilliant hooks. This could do well on the radio because of how catchy the lyrics are.
Track 17: No Limits (Interlude)
Master P discusses how to promote your music without a label. The answer is that there is no limit to what one can do.
Track 18: Don’t Wish Me Well
Solange tweeted that it took her nearly four years to write all the songs, and I see why. Each song is beautifully written, and this song amplifies that fact.
Track 19: Pedestals (Interlude)
There has very likely not been this many interludes on an album since Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope. They both pull it off, however, because each one adds something important to the album.
Track 20: Scales (featuring Kelela)
This had some of the hardest lyrics to describe from the album. It is telling the story of a boy or man who is on the path to self destruction, and wants to believe everything is fine, despite what his mother is telling him.
Master P discusses how his ancestors were forced to come to the United States as slaves, but how he now feels like royalty. Music royalty is also what people should be calling Solange after hearing this album.
stream it on Spotify
written by Nick Wilmer
edited by Nick Wilmer, Marcus Reeves