There are not many artists these days that have the audacity to attempt to create an LP that is expressive, expansive, and coherent. Even fewer are able to succeed in this endeavor. Solange does. A Seat at the Table, Solange’s third studio effort, is an album that has the potential to be a definitive art piece in the struggle of civil rights in the 21st century. This is her first project in 8 years and it’s okay if you’ve never heard the name Solange Knowles before. She has been living behind the incredible shadow of her sister, Beyoncé, for the vast majority of her career but here second album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, and this more recent one are two very good reasons why she deserves her own reverence from the music industry. Disclaimer: this album is not Lemonade, and it is most certainly not trying to be Lemonade.
This album, like her sister’s newest work, is a celebration of blackness but that is where the similarities end. Even how these woman honor being black is completely different. Solange, rather than making an aggressive, almost militant declaration of freedom from the social constraints of traditional racial roles, takes a more earnest look at the state of black people in America today. Two songs that I felt really embodied her over-arching message on this album are “Interlude: Tina Taught Me” and “F.U.B.U.”. The first discusses a pride in being black and who you are and recognizes that just because you take pride in your culture, that does not mean that you are trying to disrespect someone else’s foundations. The latter discusses the rise in black culture and the potential of black people in the face of implicit bias and straight up racism that still exists in America today.
What really struck me about the tone of this album was the underlying sense of optimism and confidence in her people that Solange carries throughout this record. She seems to recognize the gains made by black people in the last 60 years but she never forgets that there is still a battle raging in this country for black peoples’ unalienable rights that very much needs to be fought.
A Seat at the Table will not go down as my favorite album of the year. It is a long 21 songs and her stripped down production is beautiful but after the first 30 minutes, I could use a change in tempo. On the positive end though, the transitions and interludes are fantastic, the production is definitely on point, and her message is clear and beautifully worded. I really enjoyed this album, especially the songs “Cranes in the Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, “F.U.B.U.”, and “Junie”. A powerful and elegant effort, I have to give Solange props on this album and those four songs will definitely be in my rotation for the next few months.