- The message of the record
- The production
- Slight repetitiveness
Often enough the third album is the one where artists find their true calling. Solange draws inspirations from every aspect of black music. The influences of blues, soul and R&B are evident on every single track. The instrumentation relies on pianos and bass guitars. Something that was particularly apparent in 2016’s music was neo-soul. ‘A Seat At The Table’ widely bases on that genre, for sure. Talking about neo-soul, other 2016 releases by Childish Gambino, HONNE or Frank Ocean are also worth mentioning. Another way to describe Solange‘s album is ‘contemporary R&B’ which combines everything mentioned above, throwing in a little bit of dance and hip-hop into the mix. But there is even a little bit of soulful psychedelia on it as well – ‘Don’t Wish Me Well’ being one example.
‘A Seat At The Table’ does sound like a diary of black communities. Let’s just take the track ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’. It features Sampha and is, next to ‘Cranes In The Sky’, the leading single off the album. The message is clear – empowerment of black women. “Don’t touch my hair / When it’s the feelings I wear” Solange sings – it’s an anthem against the ‘European’ beauty standards, against acts of microaggression and daily racism. All other songs speak of black struggles, for example ‘Rise’ is a reaction to the police shootings in Baltimore and Ferguson. The interludes include samples of speeches for black empowerment. The record is filled with features by other, talented black artists, like Lil’ Wayne, Kelela or BJ The Chicago Kid. All bring in a bit of their own, personal experiences.
Four years have passed since Solange‘s last EP at the release of ‘A Seat…’. Years that were probably spent crafting this album, ergo: time well spent. It is a record that is enjoyable throughout, it highlights struggles, which surely need more attention. The production is sublime, all sounds work together and the interludes are clear. Without any doubt, its spot on the list of the best records of 2016 is well-deserved.