By Devon Chodzin ‘19
For many artists, the third time’s the charm. There’s no doubt that Solange fits in this pattern. Solange’s third full-length solo album, A Seat at the Table, is a miraculous and expansive suite which is a privilege to hear.
Solange’s style has ranged over the past few years, but it is apparent that she gravitates towards a contemporary or futuristic R&B. She takes risks with her music which add an airiness to some of the revered classical pieces of R&B. In the past, that has proven sometimes shaky on the occasional track for Solange, but in A Seat at the Table, the contemporary twists are exactly what the doctor ordered. Solange’s fantastic soprano range, particularly in “Cranes in the Sky,” harken back to the angelic soul of Minnie Riperton. It is exactly this blend of nods to musical legends of the past and Solange’s own creative motions which have crafted a contemporary masterpiece. Similarly, she incorporates the talent of several other closely related artists, like Kelly Rowland and Lil Wayne, and features her own parents in spoken word interludes.
The spoken word interludes and most of the tracks on the album address, candidly, the experience of black women with racism and sexism. “Don’t Touch My Hair” reflects one of the most common microaggressions against black Americans. “Don’t Touch My Hair” goes much deeper than the microaggression itself, offering a glimpse into how fetishization and devaluation of black women reaches the very core of what it means to be treated with respect. Sampha’s repeated “What you say to me?” is a fantastic background rhythm which begs one to ask- what and why would you say something so hurtful to me? What about blackness and womanhood is so hurtful to you?
The first track, “Rise,” evokes power and emotion so that one can truly be vulnerable throughout the album. The lyrics are repeating the same mantra, but the idea is that this is a hymn for self-empowerment and breaking down walls. “Rise” is an ideal opening track for this neo-soul experience. “Cranes in the Sky” is a heartbreaking description of how Solange worked to suppress her feelings of being devalued and rejected, in large part due to her black womanhood, with retail therapy, parties, and other distractions. Solange actually wrote “Cranes in the Sky” about 8 years ago. What’s important to remember about A Seat at the Table is that it is almost a decade in the making- every track has been painstakingly examined and tweaked and produced so that the ideal project could be released. “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)” features the talent of Q-Tip as well as coy references to the legendary Aaliyah. The frank exploration about the tough balance between self-preservation and constant activity is especially real for black Americans as injustice continues to permeate and directly harm black families and communities across the world.
A Seat at the Table is a must-listen. The album construction is so divine, with an ideal opening and closing. Each track offers its own argument and its own power. Likewise, the videos for “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky” are must-watches. “Don’t Touch My Hair” was filmed in the Louisiana town where Solange returned to reconnect with her roots and record this album.
This is hopefully not the last we hear of Solange and her thoroughly impressive solo career. We at WKCO cannot wait to hear what’s next.
The album is available in full for listening here: