I cowered a little at the leaked tracklist for A Seat At The Table when I saw it. 21 tracks. Not that I’m complaining – I’ve definitely listened to Solange’s True EP at least once a week since its release in 2012 – but I was intrigued. Drake’s Views is 20 tracks, and Frank Ocean’s Blonde comes in at 17. Beyond that, it seems like basically every other album gets re-released after six months with remixes and bonus material. When we’ve got almost every song ever recorded at our fingertips, it makes sense. There’s a lot to talk about. Now there’s not just the music to consider but the visuals, interludes, poetry, and more, so much more. So why stop at 13 tracks when you have more to say?
A Seat At The Table is a beautiful album. But more than that, it’s very important. The interludes that frame the shape of the album are soundbites that sound like little monologues, talking about experiences of race. This is an honest album, honest emotionally and honest in its politics. Don’t Touch My Hair and F.U.B.U (For Us, By Us) deliver a clear message: black artists (and by extension, black people) do not need white people to speak for them or justify their experiences. So I’ll try not to do that, because I agree. The most challenging, interesting releases this year have come from black artists across all different genres, and I think that the accessibility of music through streaming services has helped people to find the music that speaks to them.
A Seat At The Table is Solange’s third release, although you’d be forgiven for not knowing that. Both Solo Star and Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreamers have been left behind in the early 2000s, as Solange grew into music, and found her own direction. Since 2012, when the True EP was released, the world has been keeping an eye on Solange, just waiting for a full album. It was worth the wait, A Seat At The Table comes perfectly out of the True EP. Even just to look at it formally it’s complete, well-paced, and sweet to the ear, but the fact is that it is so much more than that, in a way that I could never hope to sum up. I can only listen to it.
There are a host of featuring artists throughout the album too. Kelly Rowland’s inclusion makes it feel like being at the best family party in the world, Kelela is fantastic (as always), but most incredibly is Lil Wayne, who sounds like a completely different artist in the track Mad. It’s interesting to hear him playing with soul and funk, and it really works. Between the different collaborators, including Solange’s husband Alan Ferguson and the photographer Carlota Guerrero, a vision has emerged, and Solange is at the very centre of it. Although it couldn’t have been made without a host of other voices, it is hers that shines through, and it shines bright and glorious.