March 18, 2019

Solange breaks new ground and celebrates the past

By Blake Wedding — 

Solange Knowles has had a lot riding on her fourth studio album, “When I Get Home.”

“When I Get Home” is a bold and brave artistic statement. While there are similarities to her first album “A Seat at the Table,” Knowles instead opts to craft something entirely different and experiment with her sound.

“When I Get Home” is characterized by its atmospheric production, which also, is its greatest quality.

The production and music on this album almost defy classification in that nothing in R&B really sounds like this. The sounds that Knowles manages to put together on this album ensure that the album has a remarkable fluidity, where each track seems to coalesce into the next.

There is almost a jazz-like quality to some of the tracks here, where the beats and production seem to bounce off her empowered voice.

Lyrically Knowles finds herself in an interesting place with “When I Get Home.” The theme of paying homage to home and how the idea of home is such a profound part of who we are is obvious and clear, but this message works as a metaphor for how she acknowledges her R&B roots.

On a larger level, Knowles reflects on many social and racial issues that were omnipresent throughout “A Seat at the Table” and could be tied to the emotional cathartic nature of that album.

However, “When I Get Home” is a different emotional place with these themes, as she sounds far more self-assured and composed, and establishes an almost celebratory quality to these lyrical topics.

As a whole “When I Get Home” is quite an enjoyable album.

There are low spots and the album is also tarnished a bit with some filler tracks, but that does not take away from what Knowles has accomplished here. It is an arbitrary affair to compare this album with her previous work considering just how different they both are.

“When I Get Home” is an album concerned with how the past affects us, more importantly, it’s concerned with connecting this theme to black culture and ongoing racial injustice in America.

Instead of sinking into sorrow, she chooses to connect these themes back to black listeners by encouraging them to celebrate themselves and to empower themselves as a form of resistance.

This decade has largely seen a sea of change in what R&B sounds like. Artists have transformed the genre’s appeal and have made “alternative-R&B” the new norm.

Alternative R&B rose out of a sense of genre fatigue.

Artists became disinterested in neo-soul and contemporary R&B and paved the way for what would become one of this decade’s defining sounds.

Yet, on the other side of the spectrum sits Knowles.

Along with a few other artists of her caliber such as D’Angelo and Anderson Paak, Knowles is still keen on showcasing why neo-soul still matters and why it is relevant in today’s musical landscape.

She did so with “A Seat at the Table,” and with “When I Get Home,” she emphasizes that idea further by paying homage to her past while also yearning to delve into new sonic styles.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal

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