It is said that the tough times are the true measure of a person’s character. By that definition, Solange is empress, artist and saviour all in one. Eight years after this maverick R&B singer’s second album, and four years since her cathartic portrait of a break-up (True EP), she has gifted us with a bold, vibrant album about freedom and the worth of her people.
Amid tense race relations in the US, and other parts of the world, A Seat at the Table is an empowering and emancipating record. Solange does not shy away from sharing her true feelings. As she says herself on the aptly named ‘FUBU’ (For Us, By Us), this is a record for her black kin. She spars with the political and social climate directly (‘Tina Taught Me’) and meteorically (‘Weary’) on this sublime melodic seminar.
‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, an irresistible concoction of chilled neo-soul, light brass and the distinctive vocals of Sampha, is an inspired riff about the power of hair, and what it represents for black women especially (“You know this hair is my sh*t / Rode the ride, I gave it time / But this here is mine”). This ode to natural hair is a celebration of blackness and an animated encouragement for you to do your thing, whatever that may be.
The musicality and groove on ASATT is outstanding. Contributors of note include Questlove, Kwes, Lil Wayne, The-Dream, Q-Tip, André 3000, Dave Sitek and Raphael Saadiq. No stranger to experimental funk, Saadiq has textured these songs with luscious melodies. ‘Cranes in the Sky’ mesmerises with its ever-ascending rhythm, ‘Mad’ makes your head bob to its Sunday-stroll beat, and ‘Junie’ turns you upside down.
This is a stunning record. 2016 has been a vintage year for politically and socially conscious works from major stars (Beyoncé, Michael Kiwanuka, Kate Tempest). And we can add Solange’s album to that list. A Seat at the Table has the outspokenness of Erykah Badu, the smarts of Janelle Monáe and a musical vision that is solely Solange’s. Listen to it. Love it. Share it.
A Seat at the Table is out now on Saint/Columbia Records.