Wednesday, August 15, 2018
The Profile

Solange Nurtures Our Edges With New Album (After Beyonce Snatched Them)

Summer Sanders

Staff Writer

Solange Knowles released the pro-Black album of the year—arguably of the past decade. Angry, celebratory, enervated, electric and more, Solange’s album “A Seat at the Table” will make you bust a move to her funky beats, shed a tear, start a revolution, look in the mirror and love yourself, and want to kiss your lover.  

“A Seat at the Table” has a successful list of artists who collaborated on the project with production by Raphael Saadiq (a former member of the R&B pioneer group Tony! Toni! Toné!) and songs featuring Sampha, Kelly Rowland, Lil Wayne, and more. Solange shows everyone that she is the true epitome of a carefree Black girl. The tracklist is metaphorically comparable to raw shea butter, sunflowers, bantu knots, big gold hoop earrings and yellow sundresses.   

This album is a powerhouse of emotion. It is evident why Solange took her time developing this project. The perfectly layered vocals, the riveting lyrics and the soul of the project are enchanting. In a live Twitter Q&A Solange answered questions tweeted to her from doting fans. She shared with the public that “A Seat at the Table”  had been a masterpiece in the making for four years and that the song “Cranes in the Sky” was actually written eight years ago.

With a graceful return to the music industry, Solange blesses us with her iconic sultry, soul-filled, and angelic R&B vocals. We feel the influences of Deniece Williams, Marvin Gaye, Minnie Ripperton, Stevie Wonder and Rick James all throughout the album. The composition of the album artwork shows influences of minimalism as she bares all. Solange rocks the au naturale look with no makeup and clips in her hair as it is being styled. She does not even smile. In the headshot on her album cover, Solange makes herself “plain” like a blank canvas.

Solange’s interludes incorporate monologues and spoken word poetry on a variety of topics, including racism, hustlin’, and starting movements, and are used as explanations of the story or reasoning behind the following songs. “A Seat at The Table” features NOLA native artists Master P. and Lil Wayne. The album also features her mother and father, Tina Knowles and Mathew Knowles, speaking on the experiences which have shaped their Black identities.

The most striking is the song that precedes “Don’t Touch My Hair,” entitled “Interlude: Tina Taught Me.” In this monologue, Mama Tina speaks on ill-judged critiques on Black people having pride in their culture and embracing their roots. She said, “There is so much beauty in being Black . . . It really saddens me when we’re not allowed to express that pride in being Black and that if you do – it’s considered anti-white. No! You just pro-Black. And that’s okay! The two don’t go together.”

“A Seat at The Table” is everything that we have been missing and were unaware of. It is self-reflective with introspective tracks like “Cranes in the Sky” and “Mad.” “F.U.B.U.” and “Don’t Touch My Hair” feature the album’s boldness and unapologetic attitude while “Junie” shows its soft, romantic side. It comes with the hits and the bangers on “Don’t Wait For Me” and evokes Destiny’s Child’s harmonies from the ‘90s in “Weary.” All of her interludes from “Dad was Mad” to “Tina Taught Me” enlighten its audience, raise awareness and provoke thought and conversation.

I’ve been following Solange and her work since she sang the “Proud Family” theme song, so picking my favorite out of the album’s twenty-one tracks was a difficult task. Nonetheless, “Cranes in The Sky” has my heart because it is an emotional, relatable song with vague lyrics that allow anyone to fill in the blank and feel Solange’s despondency. Written in the midst of a trying time in her life, this song is a testimony—if you will—at how she was once in despair and tried everything to escape it, but nothing would work.

In a brief analysis of the lyrics, anyone can see that Solange is not biting her tongue with these tracks:

From “F.U.B.U.” (an acronym meaning “For us by us”):

Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along. Just be glad you got the whole wide world. There’s us. This **** is for us. Some **** you can’t touch.

“F.U.B.U.” is directed toward people of color. Solange is saying that some things are only for us.

In early September at a concert in New Orleans, a racial incident occurred involving Solange and her family (her son and her husband, Alan). Four white women yelled at Solange to take a seat while she danced happily, and they proceeded to throw limes at her. Taking the high road, Solange took to Twitter with a rant on why Black girls and women are angry—We are not allowed to live happily and peacefully. We cannot dance at concerts and enjoy ourselves!  

Let me tell you about why black girls / women are so angry…

— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) September 10, 2016

4 older white women yell to me from behind, “Sit down now” . I tell them I’m dancing at a concert. They yell, “u need to sit down now”…

— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) September 10, 2016

We are at an ELECTRONIC and DANCE music concert and you are telling…not asking me…to sit down. In front of my child.

— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) September 10, 2016

They proceed to throw something at my back…

— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) September 10, 2016

I see folks saying “Well u live in Louisiana”…but I say I live in a city w THE most incredible, beautiful black. folk.

— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) September 10, 2016

It is very likely that Solange named the album “A Seat at The Table” due to this incident in September.

From “Weary”:

I’m weary of the ways of the world. Be weary of the ways of the world.

Be leery ’bout your place in the world

You’re feeling like you’re chasing the world

You’re leaving not a trace in the world

But you’re facing the world

In “Weary,” Solange tells Black people that we need to have our eyes open and to be alert. We need to be cautious of what is going on around us, from systemic racism and gentrification to police brutality and hate crimes. The world is a tricky place to survive when you are a Black person aspiring towards growth—economically, socially and more—while trying to remain ethical and true to yourself. The world is a tricky place, even when you just want to exist. The playing field is not leveled and it is more challenging for Black people to rise to the occasion without having to develop a double consciousness. Essentially, we cannot be ourselves entirely and cannot rise to meet the our desires without having to face change or the possibility of being erased.

When asked about the possibility of a tour, Solange responded during her live tweet conversation that her son, Julez, is now playing basketball and that “ball is life.”  While we may not get a tour, we still have this amazing new album of hers to bump unashamedly as loud as possible.

Photo Source: Vulture

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