Solange, A Seat at the Table | Album Review
Solange delivers a homerun on A Seat at the Table. ‘Seat’ encompasses feelings, attitudes, and reality for black men and women. A socially-conscious gem.
There is an album for “times such as these.” Solange makes a surprising return to music with her first full-length album in eight years, A Seat at the Table. With her third LP, she didn’t just make any album, but rather, she delivered a meaningful, socially-conscious gem. Throughout the course of A Seat at the Table, Solange embraces her blackness and couldn’t care less what the haters have to say.
A Seat at the Table begins with “Rise,” a mysterious, intriguing intro. The lyrics are simple, yet poetic and thoughtful:
“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 rise.”
“Rise” sets the tone for the album, which is deep throughout its course. Additionally, it features neo-/ retro-soul cues that characterize the sound of Seat consistently. Starting with her sophomore album, Solange has embraced an old school sound fused with alternative tastes.
Soulfulness permeates from “Weary,” a cool, calm, and collected record that surprisingly packs a punch. Like “Rise” preceding it, Solange has “the big picture” in mind. Proclaiming “I’m weary of the ways of the world,” she later flexes her inner-strength with the realization, “But you know that a king is only a man.” “Weary” is an anthem of self-worth, something continuing through the appropriately titled interlude, “The Glory Is in You.”
“Cranes in the Sky” continues the meaningful vibes of A Seat at the Table. Throughout, Solange attempts to eliminate hurtful things by avoiding them. Despite this, those feelings of pain and hurt remain, even as she does any and everything to make them go “away.” According to her, “…it’s like cranes in the sky / sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds.”
Another interlude follows “Cranes,” entitled “Dad Was Mad.” Interestingly, this interlude by Matthew Knowles is natural segue but also a fantastic prelude to “Mad” (featuring Lil Wayne). “Mad” addresses the black population’s perceived and legitimate anger in regards to status in society and their lot in life. “Mad” is a terrific conversation piece about racial misconceptions and relations.
“Don’t You Wait,” like everything else, is characterized by Solange embracing her race and being outspoken in her views. If she was angry on “Mad,” she’s still angry here, but unafraid to show her pride in being black:
“No, I don’t want to bite the hand that’ll show me the other side, no / but I didn’t want to build the land that has fed you your whole life, no / don you find it fun?”
“Don’t Touch My Hair”
Another interlude, “Tina Taught Me” (featuring mom Tina Knowles-Lawson) segues, again, serving as a prelude to the home run, “Don’t Touch My Hair” (featuring Sampha). “Don’t Touch My Hair” plays on stereotypes and naivety. Even so, it’s metaphorical as well, transcending any stereotypes. The jazzy neo-soul record tackles invasiveness, racial profiling, and pride.
“Where Do We Go” is another personally-driven portion of A Seat at the Table, once more drenched in throwback soul cues. The sentiment that all audiences can understand is that home no longer feels like home. Solange tackles this from the black perspective, referencing things that most folks take for granted, such as driving.
“Speakers off tonight / turn off your headlights tonight / don’t drive the road too slow / don’t look too close tonight…”
Back in the 1990s in particular, FUBU was a popular urban brand – exemplifying the fashion tastes of black youth. FUBU is an acronym which stands for “For us, by us.” On her own song “F.U.B.U.,” Solange embraces the sentiment. She writes and sings the song as an anthem – a shout out:
“All my n*ggas in the whole wide world / made this song to make it all y’all turn / for us, this shit is for us.”
Fittingly, “F.U.B.U.” employs a more contemporary sound compared to the majority of A Seat at the Table.
“Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)” (featuring Q-Tip) represents another powerful moment. Still very much tied to the black experience, Solange chooses to “take an intermission” from the issues and take care of herself and her own:
“You know I have the world to think / and I know I gotta go ahead and take some time / because the last thing that I want / is think that it’s time to leave the borderline.”
She confirms her mindset on “Borderline” via an interview with W Magazine.
“Junie” is inspired by and named after funk musician Junie Morrison. Groovy as albeit, lyrically, the most hard-hitting lines come toward the end:
“You want to be the teacher / don’t want to go to school / don’t want to do the dishes / just want to eat the food.”
Solange closes with a bang as well:
“But what you gonna do / when they saw all your moves and practiced ‘em daily / protect your neck, or give invitations?”
“Don’t Wish Me Well”
On “Don’t Wish Me Well,” she remains outspoken – unapologetic in regards to her views. She could care less who likes it or doesn’t, hence why she’s “going all the way,” but will “leave the lights on for you.” Final full-length track “Scales” (featuring Kelela) speaks upon cultural aspects of black culture, including “that big body” (car), “armor in your mouth” (a grill), and “if your boys go down, I know you’ll never tell” (no snitching). Another interlude – “Closing: The Chosen Ones” – concludes A Seat at the Table.
Ultimately, Solange delivers a homerun on A Seat at the Table. She successfully addresses racial issues within America. This encompasses feelings, attitudes, and reality for black women and men. Given the turbulence of the times, A Seat at the Table is truly pitch-perfect. Solange never misses.
Gems: “Weary,” “Cranes in the Sky,” “Mad,” “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “F.U.B.U.” & “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)”