Watching Solange transform from a pop star into a legit R&B artist has been a trip. Her debut disc, Solo Star—which was released in 2003—seems a universe away from the type of music she’s been focusing on in the past couple of years. This includes her aurally audacious EP, True—a project she worked on with Blood Orange. Instead of bowing down to musical trends and Billboard conventions—a tactic previous used on various songs off Solo Star—the 30-year-old Texan has spent the past five years ignoring the status quo and making music that is more in line with the classic stylings of Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and Nona Hendryx. Solange’s just-released new disc—appropriately titled A Seat At The Table—is a testament to her ever-growing soulful powers. It explores race relations, sexism, relationships and self-love in a fresh way that reflects where she’s at, where she’s been and where she’s from. Here are five reasons why we all need to get on board Solange’s artful odyssey.
Her songs are politically on the job.
A Seat At The Table delivers lyrics that strike the zeitgeist in a way that doesn’t dare dismiss the severity of inequality. Lines such as “Baby, it’s war outside these walls” off a track called “Border Line (an Ode To Self Care)” and “Be leary of your place in the world” (off “Weary”) slice into the reality of social strife and the uncertainty of our times.
She tips her hat to her roots any way that she can.
She has cast videos such as “Losing You” in South Africa, ensuring she promotes South African designers, personalities and locales every step of the way. In her latest videos to “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes In The Sky”, she employs an incredible troupe of dancers who evoke the spirit and vocabulary of Alvin Ailey’s Dance Theatre.
She celebrates and includes her family in her music.
In two interludes on the album, Solange hands over the mic to her father and mother for good reason. One recording has Mathew Knowles talking about the injustice he experienced when has was spat on and abused for being one of seven black students to integrate in school. Her mom, Tina Lawson, is also on the record and speaks eloquently on the act and the art of expressing black pride.
She will always defend Beyoncé. Always.
Many have tried to compare Solange with her sister, Beyoncé. It is a reality that Solange still has to endure and in a recent interview with Fader, the question unfortunately arose yet again. Instead of getting rubbed the wrong way, Solange answered with the grace of a pro, stating: “I’m really proud of my sister and I’m really proud of her record and her work. As far as I’m concerned, she’s always been an activist from the beginning of her career and she’s always been very black. My sister has always been a voice for black people and black empowerment.”
She’s a boss. In every sense of the word.
She wrote, arranged, and co-produced every song on her new album. She directed her just-released videos with her husband, Alan Ferguson and was the main creative director behind both projects. She is also the publisher of an amazing digital book that accompanies A Seat At The Table.