first reaction to A Seat At The Table, from Solange Knowles:
solange made a black love note album to me and you and us and new orleans and louisiana and master p and all the black people and she included zero fucks. she said this is for us and don’t touch my hair and that she is mad for a reason.
“I am a very complex, nuanced, messy, ever-evolving and changing and growing woman. I live that out through my work.”
and she sounds like a bell in hades.
deeper listen reaction:
i drove from Detroit to Nashville to see Beyonce with my Sisters and basically listened to the whole Solange album as nutrition and scholarship. i was dipping into certain songs by putting them on single song repeat, delighting in each eddy before returning to the stream so steadily moving the way i need to go.
‘cranes in the air’ was the most played song. it is so beautiful, it sings itself all the way into our/my grief. i watched so many of my beloveds put the words up as they listened, saying this, this:
“i tried to work it away/
but that just made me even sadder/
i tried to keep myself busy/
i ran around in circles think i made myself dizzy/
i slept it away/
i sexed away”
“i traveled 70 states/
thought moving round make me feel better/
i tried to let go my lover/
thought if i was alone then maybe i could recover/
drive it away/
or cry it away/
(don’t you cry it baby)”
i don’t know many woke black people who won’t feel themselves in these words.
and then after these words she soars up into riperton falsetto, and we know that beautiful pain, that love pain. the album touches that pain with medicinal tones, saying we have the right:
– to be mad (in the digital booklet for this album there is a stunning piece that lists the years, then endless years (“when it’s been about a thousand years”) of black american suffering, going into the future…”i got a lot to be mad about”)
– to have boundaries (in ‘f.u.b.u.’, which starts with the delicious distinct call in to “all my niggas in the whole wide world”, she tells white folks: “don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along/just be glad you got the whole world/some shit is for us”)
– to let go (while lil wayne gives a vulnerable direct offer of this wisdom, i was deeply moved by ‘don’t wait for me’, which guides us not to “waste the time to know” people/drama that aren’t part of our journey)
– to value ourselves, not seeking the approval or investment of those who don’t understand us (mama tina and master p weave this lesson beautifully. master p is a radical griot, his every word a rejection of white supremacy. my favorite line, as a creator: “if you don’t understand my record then you don’t understand me, so this is not for you.”)
Solange names her inspirations, which show up in beautiful collage and hint in these songs.
i also hear amel larriuex, erykah badu, denice williams (thanks celeste faison for helping me find the riff), marvin gaye, bjork (the pulling back sensuality of ‘possibly maybe’), little dragon, diana ross, aaliyah, janet jackson.
i also hear the bloodline, i hear Beyonce in the root system, and deeply respect these sisters each holding such distinct spaces of creative black femme brilliance.
and then with all of those touches and flavors and notes – Solange is so herself-in-the-world, a pure sound moving like a candle through an apparently burnt out landscape, unveiling that its a lush obsidian galaxy with its own honors and rhythms.
Solange has set her own abundant black love and healing table and she is generous, inviting us to have a seat and just chill in it, soak in it, nod and grind and bump and revel in it.
i am so here for this. i give thanks to matthew and tina for what they brought into this world.