- Words Monique Boreland
After her seminal album, A Seat at the Table, Solange Knowles continues to set herself apart as a unique artist. We pick apart her follow-up, the incredible When I Get Home.
Accidentally on purpose, I listened to Solange’s new album, When I Get Home on my way home from work. My love for life’s ironies turned a habitual never-ending tube ride into an electronic funk fest. And I found myself tapping my fingers to the cosmic beats that accompany Solange Knowles’ album.
In the three years since the release of highly-acclaimed album, A Seat at the Table, Solange’s surprise album, When I Get Home is a breath of fresh air. After leaving a trail of ambiguous clues on her website, blackplanet.com and social media, Solange teased at an album. Nevertheless, I like many other fans were left surprised at its release on March 1st. Known for intertwining her experiences into music, Solange’s album is an exploration of her childhood home, Houston and its lifelong influence. The references are bold, Solange pays homage to Houston through samples, sounds and track titles that refer to Houston’s streets – “S McGregor”, “Almeda”, “Binz”, “Beltway” and “Exit Scott”. Solange’s homage to Houston results in 39 minutes of funk tunes and an unboxing of what home means to her. So, sit back and enjoy the ride!
Solange opens the album by playfully introducing us to the repetitive track, “Things I Imagine”. The 2-minute track is a recurring spiel of lurid beats and harmonies that takes you to a kaleidoscope world of imagination. I was greeted by a sea of sounds – distorted, loud and, overlapping, and like most Solange projects, it was an equally thrilling and perplexing experience. In an interview with the New York Times Style Magazine, Solange gave a brief description of what her latest album’s sound was:
“There is a lot of jazz at the core…But with electronic and hip-hop drum and bass because I want it to bang and make your trunk rattle.”
After listening and replaying all nineteen tracks, I can confirm that Solange’s album is a compilation of sounds that make your trunk rattle. The infusion of Knowles’ silky harmonies, cosmic sounds, and electronic beats create an experience only Solange can give. Songs like “Dreams” and “Stay Flo” take you to Cloud 9. “Nothing without intention” offers new rhymes you can twerk to when you’re done with men and their shenanigans: “Six, seven, eight/Fuck these ho ass n!??!! (Ayy)/ They all be talkin’ (Ayy)/ They all be sayin’ shit.”
While songs like “Almeda” and “My Skin My Logo” are reminiscent of A Seat at the Table’s themes of black excellence. Almeda has been declared the stand-out track on Solange’s album and I couldn’t agree more. Combining Houston’s signature chopped n screwed style with striking lyrics, Solange repeatedly lists a number of items and possessions that are synonymous with the black community: “Black skin, black braids/Black waves, black days/These are black-owned things”.
The repetition throughout the songs seems purposeful. Solange wants listeners to know that she’s proud to be a part of a culture that provides a range of “things” – zippers, braids, sugar, you name it. Throughout the track, Solange’s voice booms over synthetic percussions. She repeats over and over again that “Black faith still can’t be washed away/Not even in that Florida Water”. “Florida Water” refers to a unisex cologne water known for its spiritual properties to cleanse negative energy. Through this reference, Solange implies “black faith” is impenetrable and cannot be washed away.
Solange’s lyricism on being black and proud is unsurprising; A Seat at the Table was an autobiographical album that explored life as an African American; her consistency in expressing black experiences through music is becoming a Solange Knowles trademark, that I adore and love.
When I Get Home is as unique as its writer, the variance of the album slinks through themes (Houston), genres (Jazz) and moods (passion) resulting in a trove of feel-good music. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.