Context – filling out paperwork
And what a groovy soundtrack to my chores! Solange is killing it on this album. The Knowles family can seemingly do no wrong, musically speaking at least.
For all of it’s pop sensibilities, this album feels supremely rooted in blues and R&B traditions. Her repetitions have a bluesy twist about them, as they seem to be less ear-worm inspiring and more trying to drive a point home. I could be giving her more artistic license because I enjoyed this album so much, but such is the nature of my bias. It could also be the ever-evolving nature of music and genre that has so thoroughly blurred the lines of pop and R&B, who knows.
What keeps this from being a traditional pop album are the explicitly political discussions in the interludes and on songs like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “F.U.B.U.” These interludes provide a lens through which to digest upcoming tracks, but their status as separate from the tracks themselves is a nice way to keep the music digestible, as a prolonged exposition opening a track gets tedious (I’m looking at you, Conor Oberst). As much as they took me out of the album, I have to give Solange credit for mostly integrating these successfully into the tracks both before and after–the album as a whole plays exceptionally well.
This album isn’t without it’s modern sensibilities, too. Somewhere between “F.U.B.U” and “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)” made me do a double take as the music began to break up and stutter with the best of EDM. Between moments of modern production such as that and the topical nature of the songs, this is about as 2016 as an album gets.
And that’s where the success of A Seat at the Table really shines. Solange finds a way to merge more traditional modes of musical expression with modern sensibilities and topics in a way that reminds me of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. While this falls short of Kendrick’s landmark album, it’s equally ambitious and almost as expertly executed. There’s also a good to fair chance I only think it falls short because I prefer hip-hop to R&B and pop.
I’m curious to see if her previous discography holds a candle to this release, or if it took her until now to actualize enough to find her pocket and really live in it. I hadn’t been forced to reckon with her presence until this release, and I wonder if that’s due to my own limited sphere of awareness or if this is really just an explosion that occurred at the right place and the right time.