1. Solange’s ‘A Seat At The Table’ delivers a spiritual experience
So without much ado, on September 30, 2016 Solange Knowles released her third studio album, A Seat At The Table and listeners all over the world were stunned. A Seat At The Table presents a Solange that is not only a deliberately adventurous artist, but a confident, rounded woman, with strength of mind and powerful delivery. But let’s not do the album review, before we do the album review. Getting to it…
Beautifully stripped back, chill vibes Soul music. A Seat At The Table pays a modern homage to funk, jazz and old Soul music. Entirely produced by Solange and Raphael Sadiq, the album is the perfect unification of their respective styles of modern funk and classical Soul. The production is rich, often with several instruments arranged dynamically, but provides floaty, psychedelic, just outright beautiful sonics.
A deeply personal journey to owning black womanhood in ‘Trump-age’ contemporary America. Probably as a consequence of the overt racial tension and strife that has overtaken the US over the past few years, a number of artists have explored racial politics and its social impacts in their music, not least famously, Solange’s sister, Beyonce. But A Seat At The Table is a standout project for its uniquely personal and honest exploration of these issues. Juxtaposed to the airy, psychedelic sonics, are the intensely deep, sometimes confrontational lyrics. The obvious examples are Don’t Touch My Hair and F.U.BU. But on Weary, Mad and Cranes In The Sky, Solange shows a more emotional side, even revealing trying to ease her pain with alcohol, sex, spending, work, etc. In the process, she reveals a softer persona, reminding us of her humanity after years of being caricatured and vilified. A Seat At The Table is Solange seizing control of the narrative and tell her own story.
While you can almost feel agony through the music at points, the album simultaneously tells a story of finding solace in discovering and embracing your identity. A Seat At The Table is a celebration of black pride and womanhood in the midst of adversity. It is inspirational in the powerful ode it represents to black identity. Using interludes from Master P, an iconic reminder of overcoming adversity and (bae of life) mother-extraordinaire, Tina Knowles. Solange labelled it “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing” and it’s surely all of those things.
Weary, Cranes In The Sky, Don’t You Wait, Don’t Touch My Hair, F.U.B.U
The critics are saying…
Her minimalist distillation of R&B, which takes into consideration not just the genre’s rich musical history but also its penchant for social commentary, has resulted in a stunning statement that redefines the old chestnut about the personal being political. In a volatile world increasingly defined by the brash and the crude, Solange’s packaging of brutal honesty in tender, harmony-rich murmurs is both beautiful and radical.
– Maura Johnston @ Rolling Stone
Solange’s new record is stunning, a thematically unified and musically adventurous statement on the pain and joy of black womanhood.
– Julianne Escobedo Shepherd @ Pitchfork
A Seat at the Table is an album that is indisputably Black, inspired with and by sociopolitical issues that affect Black peoples. It is just as much an album that is tender, punctuated by Solange’s femininity, firm assertion in who she is and what has informed that over the years… er collaboration with so many R&B powerhouses on A Seat at the Table is at once an acknowledgement of their professional accomplishments, as well as a celebration of the inherent Blackness of the genre.
– Amani Bin Shikhan @ Noisey
Not just an album, but a spiritual experience. A Seat At The Table is a record that personifies why we love Soul music & R&B. It speaks to the core of what it means to be black, and in particular a black woman in 2016, in a way that is cathartic, freeing and empowering. You truly feel that the album’s creation was a healing process for Solange and it is probably already creating a similar experience for other women.
It also embodies incredible artistry – written and produced throughout by Solange (with her collaborators), it is meticulously crafted brilliance, 4 years in the making. From the poetic lyrical delivery, to the varied genre influences, right down to the seamless transitions between the tracks and interludes, it’s a real masterpiece and we are constantly discovering brilliant moments on each listen.
Read (and watch) all about it…
Solange offers a behind the scenes look at the creation process for the album in this short documentary.
The Fader’s provides some inside scoop in this interview with the lady of the hour herself
Noisey’s feature piece on the album
An interesting piece on gal-dem.com on Don’t Touch My Hair’s relevance to journeys with black hair