“I don’t expect everyone to have a handbook or a guidebook on how to deal with certain issues – I certainly don’t. But there is this idea that we as black people should just be an open-ended book of resources, when we are having to heal ourselves, let alone teach everyone how to deal with us.”
– Solange (from W Magazine interview)
Since the last day of September, Solange has been feeding us from her bountiful table of specially selected soul, full-course southern style and a full helping of all the pain and beauty of being Black. Mama and Papa Knowles are in attendance along with New Orleans’ finest, Lil’ Wayne and Master P.
Grab a plate and pull up A Seat at the Table with one of my favorite bloggers, Kelley Briana of Gray Suede & I.
Kelley Briana: First listen to A Seat at the Table was in parts, but I did take the time out to tune in with no distractions-sitting still, absorbing the music as well as the lyrics. It’s nothing like her previous albums or EPs, but it shows her growth and reflects the times, as every artist should. It’s much more mellow than True and definitely more adult than Sol–Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. And I say it is five-star. So glad she made her return with such a necessary work of art. I love it. I love it. I love it!
Tunisia Jolyn: I woke up around 2 in the morning and thought to myself, “This is the perfect time to download Solange’s new album and listen.” Despite having to wake up early for work, I went ahead with my plan and did not regret the loss of sleep at all. In the complete darkness of my room, her crisp vocals shined an internal light, mesmerizing me from start to finish yet the lyrics describe a deep-rooted pain and strength that underlies the lives of our people. Truly moving. I agree with your comparisons to her previous albums. I will say, however, that I am not surprised by her progression because I remember her very first album, Solo Star, showcased her unique vibes with music. Every song she had some part in, I loved the most and I still feel her earliest songwriting and production work, on Solo Star and even on Kelly Rowland’s first solo record, Simply Deep, are extremely underrated. She just always had a special way with words and sounds and this album delivers that times ten!
Kelley Briana: Yes! I’m pretty sure we were listening at the same time because I had like two hours of sleep but made sure I had my playlist set before I laid down. I echo your sentiments, except I’ll admit I can only recall like two tracks from Solo Star. I have some homework to do. You know when an artist you love- or maybe even a brand new artist to you emerges -you kinda wanna scoop up everything they’ve made and binge listen? Hear the transition. I feel that way after having A Seat at the Table on repeat all night. Every waking moment, this album should be in my ears. I am pretty sure I’m gonna get a listen in as often as possible for awhile. A long while.
I like that fact that she got her parents + NOLA natives involved. Truly paying homage to where she came from, who she is and the newer roots she’s planted in Louisiana. I really really love + appreciate every single track, including the interludes. The realness of “Mad” and “F.U.B.U.” The piano and ooh-whas of “Junie.” “Junie” is a definite favorite. “Don’t Touch My Hair,” for obvious reasons (LOL) is a favorite. It’s so real! Hair is much more than hair for us. I think above all though, so far, “Cranes in the Sky” is my absolute favorite jam. Just… everything about it.
And “Borderline.” Top track, no doubt.
And “Scales.” OMG… so dreamy! Kelela is my jam. Did I mention my love for the entire album?
Tunisia Jolyn: LOL Yes, I believe you did mention your love for the entire album. In fact, you almost listed every song as your favorite and I don’t blame you! The whole album is brilliant in its delivery but there are some highlights that I noticed while listening to A Seat At The Table. The first song, “Rise,” really grabbed my attention from the first lines “Fall in your ways so you can crumble/Fall in your ways so you can sleep at night/Fall in your ways so you can wake up and fly.” The poetic words and intricate harmonies really set the tone for the rest of the album. Then, it smoothly segues into my other favorite track, “Weary.” With its minimal production from Raphael Saadiq and Sir Dylan, this song really allows her message of self-discovery and self-empowerment to stand out strongly without many distractions at all. While listening to “Cranes in the Sky,” I immediately thought of the legendary Minnie Riperton, especially when she hits that high note at the very end. Every time I hear it, I get chills because she captured the pain of trying to block the insurmountable pressure of being Black in this world, in such a gorgeous way; it is almost like alchemy for the soul. “F.U.B.U.” is another hot track where she shows so much swag and I hate that word ‘swag’ but it’s the best word to describe how she rides the beat so flawlessly while spilling the real so effortlessly. Better than some rappers actually. I can see every woke Black person vibing to this while bopping their heads like “Yup… this shit is definitely for us.”
Oh and that intro to “Don’t Touch My Hair” though…
Okay, I’m done.
Kelley Briana: Yea, you summed it up LOL. It’s just… organic. I was a lil’ skeptical when I saw some of the featured artists (who will go unnamed), but I dig the WHOLE thing. I can say that about only a few albums in my library.
Tunisia Jolyn: Organic is such a good word for this album. I would also add ‘authentic’. When discussing such serious topics within our community and in society as a whole, Solange seems to take such a bold yet polite approach, seemingly purposefully given the title of the album. From the music to the digital book to the artwork, A Seat At The Table has almost a muted expression of the frustration, anger and hurt within the Black community while also being unapologetically empowering and inclusive in its delivery, embracing her genuine pride and love for her people and her culture while showing her Southern manners with her invited guests at the table.
Kelley Briana: I am not even mad at all the new fans that got up from the table stuffed with the realness that is Queen Solange! A Seat at the Table should be in every Black person’s library. She did her duty as an artist by releasing a timely album that is a true sign of the present. I echo you in saying that there is a muted frustration. I love the mixture of self-love, amorous love and Black love/love for our people. It’s rare that an album boasts all three – so rare that I can’t think of another like it. [On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe To Pimp a Butterfly.] A Seat emerged at a point when it’s much needed and, for that reason [along with it just being overall jammin’], clearly well received. You’ll be able to take this one off the shelf in ten, twenty, thirty years and remember exactly what was happening to our people in 2016.
It’s always refreshing to hear an artist with a platform be absolutely real, to say “Hey, I’m Black like you and it hurts me just the same. I feel it. You are welcome here, in my home. At my table. Sit down. Sing along. Cry. Be mad. Hear, listen to these poems I sang for us. Just us.”
I cannot give this modern masterpiece enough praises. A Seat at the Table, album of the year.
Now we want to hear from you. What do you think of Solange’s new album? What are some of your favorite songs? How do you feel about the overall message of this record? Let us know!