Release Date: Jan 8, 2013
Record label: Terrible
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Alternative Dance, Alternative R&B
As Beyoncé's kid sister, Solange has perhaps had no choice but to work the weird-little-sibling angle, making the Brooklyn scene as a DJ and releasing two albums where she tried on "disco queen" and "R&B kitten" like oversize heels. On this doggedly chill seven-song EP, a collaboration with British songwriter-producer Devonté Hynes, the 26-year-old goes all-in with the hipsters, swathing herself in melancholy synths. It's an awkward pivot: She sounds like a young but oddly listless Madonna on "Losing You," and "Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work" unravels with a voluminous spoken interlude by Hynes.
Solange Knowles is Beyoncé's less famous (and hipper) younger sister, who's spent most of her adult life running away from the mainstream pop world. We loved her last album, Sol-Angel And The Hadley St. Dreams, but it didn't break her to a wider audience, and she parted ways with Interscope. Fortunately, she ended up signing with cool indie label Terrible (co-founded by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor) and hooking up with producer Dev Hynes (aka Lightspeed Champion), which seems to suit her much better than the glitz of the major label world.
If you were going to build the perfect pop star, you’d put her in the coolest family but make her the rebel, the one who smoked weed in their youth and listened to Rick Ross and Dirty Projectors. You’d give her hipster mates, like Olly XX and Dev ‘Blood Orange’ Hynes, and a singing voice like Diana Ross high on crack. Friends, meet Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s sister and the definition of pop perfection.The 26-year-old is not a hit-making pop star, but an antidote to pop homogenisation; something that sounds different to everything on the radio, but could still be on the radio.On that front, ‘True’ delivers.
All Solange Knowles shares with big sis Beyoncé is a family crest. And on the hypnotic sugar-rush that is True (a sort of LP/EP hybrid, following two full-length solo albums), that distinction’s never been clearer: This R&B problem child has finally delivered on her undeniable promise. On her 2008 breakout, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, Solange worked with some of the world’s hottest, hippest producers (Cee-Lo Green, Mark Ronson, The Neptunes), showcasing an eclectic, offbeat sensibility that blended soul, dance-pop, hip-hop, funk, and psychedelia—but Solange herself was often lost amidst the sonic swirl.
When we heard from Solange Knowles four years ago, she was a major-label signee trying to find her footing on a conceptual and vintage-sounding album called SoL-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams. Then she split with Interscope and resurfaced on the indie circuit, carting Jay-Z and her sister Beyoncé to Grizzly Bear concerts on the Williamsburg waterfront and offering up a cover of Dirty Projectors' "Stillness Is the Move". At cynical first glance, it seemed like Knowles was simply backtracking and rebranding, hoping to claim some available indie turf.
Solange's first independent release, a seven-track EP for Grizzly Bear member Chris Taylor's Terrible label, follows the Top Ten album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. As the gap was four years in length, True naturally sounds significantly different -- not much like her loose, Day-Glo throwback soul of 2008. Written and produced with Dev Hynes (aka Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange), the songs have a diaphanous new wave via synth funk sound that is much closer to Little Dragon than the Dap-Kings.
Beyoncé is the sort of superstar who lets you know how much work and sweat go into being a superstar. That’s always been part of the draw, and it’s always played well to the above-ground mass audience that values work as much, if not more, than they value artistry. In contrast, Solange has quietly expended a lot of effort to come off nonchalant, if not outright indolent, at least in the wake of her by-the-numbers R&B debut, Solo Star, in which she borrowed her big sister’s playbook with decidedly mixed results.
From day one, the world?s compared Solange to her diva-licious older sister Beyoncé, and from day one the younger sibling has tried her best to dismiss those comparisons. Her 2003 debut, Solo Star, didn’t help, sounding like a sweeter, less sophisticated version of Bey?s soul-pop hybrid. Thankfully, she found a niche with the dance-pop of 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley St.
An incredibly addictive pop record comparable to no other contemporary release. Nick Levine 2013. On her last album, 2008's Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, Solange addressed the elephant in the room. "I'm not her and never will be," she sang on a track called God Given Name. This was an ….
When your older sister is one of the most famous singers in the world, comparisons to your own efforts in the family business are unavoidable. For Solange Knowles, younger sister of Beyoncé, this EP, a tease of her forthcoming third full-length, mostly puts them to bed. “Lovers in the Parking Lot,” a Destiny’s Child-style ballad, is the lone point of stylistic crossover; the rest of the songs here, produced by Dev Hynes, who was also behind Sky Ferreira’s 2012 song of the year contender, “Everything Is Embarrassing,” swoon through that doe-eyed track’s cheap drum-machine throwback pop.
Stepping out of your older sibling’s shadow is difficult enough already, even when you’re not Beyoncé’s sister. But that’s Solange Knowles’s lot in life, and she’s done what she can to establish her own identity. Indeed, it’s also difficult to avoid the laundry list of things that establish her indie cred: her cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move,” her collaborations with Rewards and Of Montreal, her signing to Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear’s Terrible Records.