By Setota Hailemariam
Solange’s new album “A Seat at the Table” feels more like a diary, lovingly penned and containing her deepest feelings and grievances and proudest moments. Released on Sept. 30, the record is the R&B songstress’ third studio album, and is not only a personal documentation of her life, but also a showcase of what it’s like to be black in America.
At a moment in time where every day brings a new headline about police brutality, racial profiling and other struggles facing the black community, Solange uses this album to empower her black listeners, showing them their feelings of outrage and pain are valid. The tracks “Weary,” “Mad,” and “F.U.B.U.” exemplify this best, as they present relatable themes like the exhaustion one feels at the never-ending news of tragedies in the world, the “angry black girl” narrative and microaggressions black people endure on a daily basis.
“I’ve always been proud to be black … it really saddens me when we’re not allowed to express that pride in being black, and that if you do then it’s considered anti-white.”
This monologue, delivered by Tina Knowles, Solange’s mother, on the track “Interlude: Tina Taught Me” is one of many short interludes on the album. Featuring a variety of guests including Matthew Knowles (Solange’s father), Kelly Rowland and Master P., the interludes blend seamlessly from song to song, offering unique, personal accents to the already intimate record.
The journal-like quality of “A Seat at the Table” is especially apparent on songs like “Cranes in the Sky.” It’s a standout moment of the album, with Solange’s ethereal vocals and multi-part harmonies making the subject matter — her attempts to distract herself from her problems instead of facing them head-on — seem light, almost joyous.
Solange also announces her spirit cannot be shaken or taken away from her on “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Though the song can be taken in a literal sense — as Solange expressing her irritation at those who express their unwanted opinions on her natural hair — it can also be interpreted as her taking ownership of her identity, or her way of existence.
Production-wise, the album’s overall mood can best be described as dreamlike, though its themes deal with Solange’s and members of the black community’s all-too-true reality. It’s warm, it’s inviting, and above all else, it’s healing. It should be noted, though, toward the end of the record the tracks begin to sound similar and blur together, with their soothing tones and Solange’s fondness of layered harmonies. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Though she may be Beyonce’s sister, the 30-year-old singer is without a doubt an artist in her own right. From her wispy vocals to the soft, mellow vibe on her album, drastically different from Bey’s powerhouse sound, Solange cannot — and should not — be compared to her sister.
Solange creates a heartfelt account of her life and experiences on “A Seat at the Table,” an open letter in song form to the world, black and non-black people alike. To non-black listeners and fans, it’s a call for awareness — awareness of the struggles that come with being black in this country and around the world.
And to black listeners, above all else, the album carries a powerful message: you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. Love yourself, take care of yourself and hold your head up high.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of DKMS US’s Vimeo account.
Setota Hailemariam is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.