by Anita Wu
At the end of last month, Solange Knowles, Béyonce’s incredibly underrated younger sister, released her third studio album A Seat at the Table, which has become my record of the week. A beautiful album that has been unanimously well received by the music and pop culture community, the 21 tracks involve a number of provoking interludes and exciting neo-soul pop music from the graceful, 30 year old star.
As her FADER interview mentioned, A Seat at the Table is a part personal memoir and part cultural analysis, offering insights into Solange’s past, present, and future. Opening with “Rise” and finishing with “Closing: The Chosen Ones”, the album chronicles her artistic surge of pain, anger, sadness and cynicism that she has experienced since her 2012 EP True which was co-produced by Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes.
The album examines what being a black artist means culturally and historically, with her mother proudly proclaiming why black culture is necessary in one of the seven interludes called “Interlude: Tina Taught Me”. Touching upon the politically and socially charged conversations that are also mirrored in her sister’s 2016 record LEMONADE, A Seat at the Table tackles black empowerment and independence with frank discussions, particularly within the tracks “Where Do We Go” and “Interlude: This Moment”. Taking inspiration from Claudine Rankine’s 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric, Solange uses a combination of directness and ambiguity from the Jamaican-American poet to express her changing identities as an artist, mother, and woman. This is a critical conversation considering the current epidemic where inherent racial prejudice prevails.
Honourable collaborators on this album include Dev, The Dream, BJ the Chicago Kid, Q-Tip, Kelly Rowland and Kelala but the two-standout tracks are with Sampha and Lil Wayne. “Mad” and “Don’t Touch My Hair” touch upon how black women are devalued and mourns how people try to compromise the vision and remove the “crown” that these ladies wear.
Alongside the aforementioned tracks, “Cranes in the Sky” – a song that encapsulates much of the album’s mood – is one of my favourites. It is tender and fragile while simultaneously soulful and empowering. It is an airy track offering a melodic insight into the mind of Solange, mentioning how she tries to cope by utilizing the escape mechanisms of drinking and avoidance. The video is a beautiful reflection of this and continues the conceptual act of “pulling up a chair” to continue this on-going discussion of identity, injustice and refuge.
Altogether, this album is an eloquent narrative that it is as rich and intense as it is cohesive. A Seat at the Table continues a frank discussion regarding black empowerment and female identity, furthering Solange’s status in the music industry as a perceptive artist whose delivery is candid yet articulate. 4/5.