by Maria Byrne
Yes, you heard correctly, Solange Knowles: her older sister is Beyoncé, and it seems talent runs in the family. But what’s the point of recognizing Solange on how successful her album is if we’re still just going to center the narrative on Beyoncé? At the beginning of the month, Solange released her third full-length album A Seat at the Table, a powerful presentation of her identity through 21 tracks of both song and spoken word. This album is a little different than her previous work: she focuses on documenting what it means to be a black woman in 2016 while also acknowledging the struggles black people have faced historically. While drawing on recent reactions from the endless killings of black people by the police, she still accounts for the overall horrors and oppression African Americans have been subject to for centuries.
Despite the brutal reality of these topics, her album is elegant and radically soft while boldly putting a spotlight on different perspectives. In “Cranes in the Sky,” Solange in soft falsetto explains how loneliness and isolation (and potentially mental illness) grow in the face of systematic oppression. She notes on this track, which is fourth on the album, how quick fix solutions do not work for her (or us) in the long run, when there is a larger cause rooted at the source. “Don’t Touch My Hair” establishes boundaries by addressing the hostility black women often face in predominantly white spaces. Other notable tracks include a Lil Wayne feature in “Mad,” “For Us By Us,” and spoken word interludes, a few by Solange’s parents. Overall, Solange’s album powerfully and beautifully describes what it means to be a black woman in America while also radically claiming her identity within it.