Release Date: Mar 1, 2019
Record label: N/A
This surprise-released, self-produced record is a reminder that Solange is an R&B frontrunner in her own right. It's a celebration of women, black culture and - above all - music On the February 28, Solange announced the surprise release of her follow-up to the stunning 2016 album ‘A Seat At The Table’. The frenzy that erupted was colossal, and rightfully so, as she released a record that confirmed her already established greatness.
In 2008, Solange delivered a masterpiece with her second album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Abrams, with its Sixties-infused soul and its disregard for the standards of the music industry. The 'Don't Touch My Hair' singer was already standing her ground back then, singing "I'll never be picture perfect Beyoncé" on 'Fuck The Industry'. It's important to stress this because the unsuspecting listener who discovered her through A Seat at The Table will probably miss the full picture.
The Lowdown: Midway through She Begat This, a book by legendary music critic Joan Morgan released last year on the legacy of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Morgan presents an excerpt of a conversation between herself and creative director Michaela Angela Davis, a former editor at Essence, debating whether Solange's 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, is this generation's answer to Lauryn Hill's masterpiece. While the conclusion is left open, Morgan writes that Solange's album is liberating in how humble and honest it is, "solidly rooted in not having all the answers. " Furthermore, just over nine months after the album was released, it was included in NPR's Turning the Tables list of the best 150 albums made by women since 1964.
In a T Magazine interview with Solange published last fall, writer Ayana Mathis described the making of the new album as taking the singer back to "a kind of Houston of the mind." It's a city that figures heavily in Knowles family mythology as the birthplace of Solange and her sister. At the time of the interview, we didn't know the name of the record, When I Get Home, which indicates that this is an album about return. Now we have music and an accompanying short film that reconstructs the Houston of Solange's mind.
There's so much to love about Solange's latest studio album When I Get Home -- the top notch production, accompanying short film, ambient minimalism, her nods to her hometown of Houston and, of course, her dreamy falsetto. Then there’s those eclectic guest appearances from Playboi Carti, Gucci Mane, Earl Sweatshirt, The-Dream, Dev Hynes, Sampha, Scarface and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. But at 19 tracks, those sentiments eventually begin to grow stale as boredom takes over.
Unfazed by having to follow a landmark album that crowned the Billboard 200, went gold, and yielded a hit that took a Grammy, Solange leisurely detours with When I Get Home. Made in spots as remote as Los Angeles and Jamaica, the follow-up to A Seat at the Table was also recorded in New Orleans and Solange's native Houston. Most pertinent is the last location, referenced repeatedly in expressions of nostalgia, pride, and tranquility, as well as in titular geographic markers.
Solange's eagerly-awaited fourth studio album is one that is crafted with purpose, leading listeners on an assured path with every single note of its calming, blissful production. While the lengthy tracklist is made up of impressive credits that includes Pharrell Williams, Sampha and Tyler, the Creator that's not why it shines. The offering - poignantly released on March 1st, as Black History Month gives way to National Women's History Month - beautifully represents the message that Solange has always tried to convey with her music, while still bringing in something unexpected.
Rating: NNNN It's hard to overlook the fact that Solange chose to release her new album in the twilight of Black History Month. When I Get Home plays like a moody night ride through Houston's Third Ward, with Solange in the driver's seat resting one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the radio's dial. The car smells like incense and Black Ice air freshener and the driver is wearing an XXL white tee.
Solange sounds like she's waking from a dream at the outset of "When I Get Home" (Columbia). "I saw things I imagined," she murmurs. And then a few songs later, another vision appears: "Brown skin, brown face, black skin, black braids." In contrast to the political, personal and social specificity of the singer-producer-songwriter's landmark 2016 release, "A Seat at the Table," her fourth album favors ambiance, texture, dreaminess.
Solange, younger sister of Beyoncé and the cult hero of the Knowles clan, has made a record that sounds at times like a collection of demos - fleeting impressions of fluid, contemporary soul songs that fizzle out the moment they're laid down, like a Snapchat album. It's in keeping with the increasingly avant-garde nature of R&B production today, which can be heard in everyone from Frank Ocean to Ariana Grande: songs feel like sketches; hooks and choruses matter less; and music is conceived, perhaps, with visuals in mind - in the manner of Beyoncé's Lemonade. This kind of music demands a lot of the listener - short songs are harder on the attention span than long ones.