The piece of your life you always thought was missing. A professor of harmonies, a leader of a generation: Solange's album is a defining moment of 2016.
Within the music industry there often seems to be a persistent imbalance between quality music and the liberation which artistry provides. On the path to obtaining commercial success, many modern artists fail to recognise the sacredness of sincerity, longevity, and depth within the music they create. Solange, however, falls into a class of musician that surpasses the mere creation of frequencies and meaningless words, being one of only a few commercial singers worthy of the “artist” title. A Seat At The Table, her third studio album, is a beautiful reminder of the standard we should expect from the musicians we support and love.
The singer-songwriter has long been admired for her musical integrity, creating what she believes will and should resonate amongst her fans instead of catering to the numbness they have already been fed. This record creates a forum for an honest expression of feelings, more specifically from the perspective of the black community. In a recent tweet, she stated that “[A Seat At The Table] is meant to provoke healing and [a]journey of self empowerment,” and she has achieved this and more. Not only does it provide the tools for personal growth within our community, she also opens up this narrative to the diverse demographic of her fanbase. Yes, this album is an overt expression of her love for black culture and people, appropriately described by one of the record’s 21 tracks as being ‘F.U.B.U.’ (For Us, By Us), but it also allows those from outside of this community to see our truth and the reality of our place within western societies.
Musically, A Seat At The Table continues to exude class and simplicity. Solange maintains her depth of meaning whilst allowing her production to be both intricate yet unpretentious, with the instrumentation throughout extremely fluid without sounding complacent or repetitive. Opening track ‘Rise’ sets the tone for the entire record: the organic nature of the refined piano melody paired with the synthesiser is just a small example of not only Solange’s eclectic musical taste but also her approach to songwriting, as detailed in a recent interview on her website. The uplifting horns used in ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ and interlude ‘This Moment’ create a feeling of empowerment, sonically reminiscent of Kanye West’s 2005 track ‘We Major,’ the funk-infused ‘Junie’ is a retro-like jam which may make you want to grow out an afro and drive down the street in an open top convertible, and the neo-hip hop beat of the Q-Tip-featuring ‘Borderline (An Ode To Self Care)’ makes for an instant vibe track.
The vocal production on this record is beyond description, continuing to challenge mainstream harmonies and chord progressions. At this point in time, ‘Cranes In The Sky’ really speaks to the soul and does something for me that I haven’t felt from music in a long time. Lyrically, it touches on how some may deal with pain in their lives; sonically, Solange’s vocal tone and choice of harmonies are flawless, reminding me of D’Angelo’s approach to vocal layering. In addition, the soulful vocal additions by singer songwriter Tweet on tracks such as ‘Weary’ and ‘Mad’ also add to this feeling of melanin magic.
All of this, alongside the inspirational and thought provoking anecdotes served between tracks from Master P and her parents to name a few, allows A Seat At The Table to transcend music. This album is medicine. This album is a balance between sweet harmonies and hard vibe instrumentation, reflective of the essence of Solange herself. It is both refreshing yet familiar. It is both exclusive yet accessible. An album many of us wanted, but never knew we needed.
A Seat At The Table is out now via Columbia Records