When I Get Home
Columbia Records · March 1, 2019
Three years after the release of her critically-acclaimed album, A Seat at the Table, Solange began dropping hints that a new album was on the way. Two days later, as Black History Month was coming to a close, When I Get Home appeared. While the Knowles sisters are no strangers to surprise album drops, Solange took it to a new level, deploying her latest album rollout by taking over the homepage of BlackPlanet, the black social networking community that was launched in 1999.
Her BlackPlanet page contained images, GIFS, and cryptics text interpreted best as lyrics from the songbird herself. Her use of BlackPlanet was fitting as both A Seat at the Table and When I Get Home address themes of black identity, self-realization, and recollections of home. On both albums, Solange uniquely showcases the cities that have played pivotal roles in her life: New Orleans and Houston.
As the follow up to her 2012 new wave dance EP True, A Seat at the Table seemed to abandon traditional elements of song and lyric structure. This abandonment seems to ring even louder on When I Get Home. Through repetition, Solange meditates on themes related to her hometown of Houston. In “Things I Imagined,” the album’s opening track, Solange introduces the album as a recollection of home: both real and imagined. She repeats the phrase “I saw things I imagined” at different intervals and with different vocal inflections that sound almost like the singer’s internal dialogue or stream of consciousness.
When I Get Home does not credit any featured artists, but many helping hands contributed to the project, including John Carroll Kirby, Pharrell, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Dev Hynes, The-Dream, Sampha and Cassie to name a few. Standout tracks include the heavily Pharrell-influenced “Almeda” and “Sound of Rain” which incorporate Pharrell’s bouncy and futuristic production, as well as his signature four-count intro.
Solange’s decision to omit the names of featured artists on the track listing can be seen best as her desire to distance herself from the work to give it a larger meaning. Following the release of her previous album, which was deeply personal, Solange told T Magazine, “I realize how much wider, figuratively and literally, my work could be if I took myself away as subject.” With less of an emphasis on herself, she provides listeners with a lens of H-town through her use of samples and interludes from locals that are woven throughout the project.
While the album can at times be difficult to piece together or understand as a larger work, Solange offers us a second lens through the album’s 33-minute accompanying film co-directed by Terence Nance, When I Get Home. The film enhances the album’s Houston inspired chopped ‘n’ screwed style with slow and dreamy visuals of cowboys, dirt roads, and snakeskin boots.
Overall, When I Get Home seems like the perfect follow up to A Seat at the Table and provides listeners with yet another thoughtful narrative from the R&B singer, but this time, in a way that feel less restrained, and much freer.