Solange’s “When I Get Home” is an abstract quest for identity

edward benner solange album reviewSam Ford/THE REVIEW
While often compared to her sister Beyoncé, Solange has shown a wider artistic vision and a different set of goals, paying closer attention to the conceptual and political in her work.

BY
Music and Society Editor

“I can’t be a singular expression of myself, there’s too many parts, too many spaces, too many manifestations,” Solange sings on “Can I Hold the Mic (Interlude),” expressing the multifaceted connection she has to her own identity and the art she creates.

Solange lives up to this proclamation, taking an interdisciplinary approach to her image and work as a whole. Outside of being a singer-songwriter, she has extended herself into the realms of video direction, dance, fashion and music production — seamlessly excelling in all areas with her visionary touch.

While often compared to her sister Beyoncé, Solange has shown a wider artistic vision and a different set of goals, paying closer attention to the conceptual and political in her work. Her 2016 album, “A Seat at the Table,” was a testament to her creativity, with biting topical lyricism, impressive vocal performances and a string of gorgeously choreographed music videos.

Solange’s newest album, “When I Get Home,” is a departure from her previous sound, retaining the R&B elements but focusing more on creating atmosphere and mood. The album utilizes extended sonic and lyrical repetition and jazz motifs, showing direct inspiration from avant-garde masters Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra. Electro-funk synths and hip-hop drum and bass elements are also incorporated, making it a detailed and exciting listen.

Pharrell, Panda Bear, Blood Orange, Standing on the Corner, Metro Boomin, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, the Creator all have production credits. Several memorable vocal features are included as well, with a fluid Playboi Carti (“Almeda”), a playful Gucci Mane (“My Skin My Logo”) and an emotional Sampha (“Time(is)”) all organically complementing and elevating Solange’s aesthetic.

Aiming to unpack the complex intersectionality of identity, Solange’s poetic lyricism assumes a meditative form throughout the album’s 19 tracks.

She contemplatively explores the elements that define her — gender, ethnicity and home. Defying the male gaze and casting off barriers to her sexuality, she embraces her womanhood on “Sound of Rain.” Pridefully listing the things her culture has laid claim to, she embraces her ethnicity on “Almeda.” Alluding to Houston culture in the way cars are painted on “Way to the Show” and finding comfort in love and environmental familiarity on “Exit Scott,” she expresses the powerful connection to her home.

The clarity of the instrumentals that often swirl and breathe in their fluidity, paired with Solange’s pristine singing and seemingly superhuman range, makes “When I Get Home” an impressive album musically.

A large part of its success comes down to Solange’s ability to transport listeners to a place of mental reflection and cathartic emotion while begging for them to dance along and turn the volume up. Accomplishing both things while capturing the wide range of human emotions is an impressive feat.

Professing, “You can say what you need in my mind / I’ll be your vessel,” in “I’m a Witness,” Solange transcends her role as an artist to a shimmering beacon by the end of “When I Get Home.” In Solange’s music the strength and power to recognize our collective identity is given, inspiring us to find ourselves through song.

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