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Solange Debuts “A Seat at the Table” after eight year hiatus

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By Candace Mettle

Last Friday, Sept. 30, Solange Knowles released her third album “A Seat at the Table,” her first album release in eight years. Solange is like your friend’s cool sister that you admire from afar, and long to be, even though you’ve only interacted with her a few times. It took a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist from roughly two years ago for me to figure that out. I consider myself up-to-date on pop culture icons, but I had never really listened to Beyoncé or Solange until their newest albums, respectively “Lemonade” and “A Seat at the Table,” came out this year. As many can agree, 2016 has forced a large part of this nation to discuss aspects of the black experience — the positive parts, and the negative ones. For the majority of “A Seat at the Table,” Solange exhibits the intimate parts that fall through and in between this polarity.

The album is soul. Not just because of its genre, but because each song exhales a personal history rooted in suffering and beauty. To get this full experience, I urge listeners to play the album from start to finish. The songs on the album flow as smoothly as a creek; to interrupt the flow would mean destroying nature. The interconnection of tracks makes it so that one cannot even imagine breaks in between; they fit seamlessly together and only after 20 minutes have passed do you realized you’ve listened to eight tracks instead of one. 

“A Seat at the Table,” seems to have three distinct progressions of emotions: the first one being conflict and grief, the second, empowerment through retroactions, the final, prideful acceptance. The transitions between each section are subtle and poignant, meditative and powerful. Most importantly, it makes you want to move. Not necessarily as gracefully as “Cranes in the Sky,” (song number four from the album) but definitely in a way that allows your spirit to explore territory outside the confines of the body.

The album opens up with the anthem/lullaby, “Rise,” and the listener is welcomed to a world where the black community and allies tell their beautiful children and each other to lift themselves up and prepare themselves for what is next to come. Originally debuted during the premiere of the biopic on Bessie Smith called Bessie, Solange dedicated the song to Ferguson and Baltimore in light of the protests that happened as a response to police brutality. Instead of highlighting the anger that many felt (and, to be honest, the uncivilized anger that the media wanted to exhibit), Solange decided to reflect on the inner sadness that burdened all those affected.

Although it is almost impossible to pull out the best tracks of the album (because each one is truly spectacular), “F.U.B.U. (For Us, By Us),” featuring The-Dream & BJ the Chicago Kid, is another one of my favorites. Beginning with a passionate interlude by Master P, the song is a little bit more upbeat than most of the others, with the inclusion of a cool, sassy saxophone rhythm. Still, it perfectly encases the frustration, pride and alienation of being a black person in a world that loves to criticize and underestimate black existence. Solange plays into the hard image of black artists by taking a short break from coy prose to using colloquial and profane terms, such as “nigga.” Nonetheless, the minimalist style supports the song, and it’s just as brilliant as “Rise.”

All in all,  “A Seat at the Table” encourages people of all colors and backgrounds to pull up a chair and have a frank discussion on race. As a black woman, it made me (re)affirm and learn to appreciate my identity. Solange has produced, directed, written, acted—pretty much worked as an omnipotent, artistry goddess— to create the greatest album of the year, probably one of the greatest of this century thus far. Take note, world.

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