A Seat At The Table Album Review
It’s been a while since we’ve heard directly from Solange and quite frankly, many fans are loving what they’re hearing. Sitting ever so pretty at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, A Seat at The Table is arguably Solange’s best work to date coming four years after her last project the ep TRUE released in 2012. Solange has been somewhat inconsistent over the years with releasing music but she has not been a stranger to the studio, writing and producing music. Writing songs for her sister Beyonce as well as others has kept her on her toes musically and it speaks to her ability as a songwriter. Tracks like Why Don’t You Love Me, Upgrade U and Get Me Bodied all sung by Beyonce, have all been blessed with Solange’s touch. She is no stranger to the music business and she is no stranger to speaking her mind. “A Seat at the Table” is a very vocal album to say the least, using the sounds consistent with neo-soul, r&b and funk amongst quirky beats and in some cases heavy uses of piano and string instruments, all overlaid by Solange’s laid back style of singing and presentation. Addressing narratives of anger, identity, empowerment, self-care, and history within her world and the world of those like her, this album speaks volumes, especially for the narrative of black women.
Opening up the album, is a track named Rise, written by Solange of course and produced by the likes of Questlove and Ray Angry among others. “Fall in your ways, so you can crumble” is the first line we hear in this song and it suggests that she is telling her audience to embrace their ways and by extension themselves. “Fall in your ways, so you can sleep at night. Fall in your ways, so you can wake up and rise” she sings. All speaking to her further telling the listener to be more comfortable with everything that makes them, them. The song has an underlying tone of pride and soothes the ear because of Solange’s layered voice on the track. We are graced with a number of interludes, one featuring Master P where he speaks of everyone’s need to find peace within themselves and us as a people being the change we wish to see. That we search the world to find peace – peace residing within us. We also hear from Solange’s mother Tina Knowles on “the beauty of being black” and the pride attached to it for those of the black race; as well as the frustration of being labeled as racist because of the love we have for or own culture and people. Cranes in the Sky then meets us with what seems to be Solange’s way of coping with exhaustion and stress. She describes trying to change these feelings with her hair, trying to sex it away, read it away and sleep it away among other things. She then goes on in the chorus of the song to sing “well it’s like cranes in the sky, sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds”, describing this feeling of weariness and stress as cranes in the sky – forever hanging over her head and not moving for a period of time. This is one of the most popular tracks on the album right now and the video to accompany this beautiful song only enhances her artistic direction on this track. Don’t Touch My Hair provides us with Solange’s connection with her hair, calling it her pride, her crown and something very personal. This connection is one that most black women have with their hair. She says “don’t touch my hair” to people who are not like her who may want to touch her hair because they don’t understand. Her relationship alludes to black pride, and strength; as well as a hint of “black girl magic”.
A personal favourite of mine Mad featuring Lil Wayne, written by Solange and Lil Wayne, is a direct address of the “angry black woman” narrative. The narrative that rubs most black women who are angry at social issues for legitimate reasons, the wrong way. In this song she sings the words “I got a lot to be mad about” and brings to the table legitimization of her anger – and the anger of many black women. She hits back the stereotype by saying “you’ve got the right to be mad” as there are things to be mad about – police brutality and women’s rights being among some while also giving voice to those who question her on why she can’t just be content with the way things are. Further into the album we are met by Junie featuring Andre 3000, a funk inspired track addressing cultural appropriation and the fact that aspects of black culture have been edited and sold as “new inventions” by non-blacks. “You wanna be the teacher, don’t wanna go to school. Don’t wanna do the dishes, just wanna eat the food” is where Knowles reveals the song’s true message. The clear political stance and messages are read throughout all the other tracks and it is clear to us that these words all mean something to Solange.
A beautiful array of intriguing sounds, mixed with raw emotions and the laid back and intimate feel of this album, make it the masterpiece it is. A full listen of this whole album and you feel personally invited to have a seat at the table by Solange herself. A conversation of who we are and what we’ve been through over the years and a monumental account of what it means to be black.
– Kamilah Ellis