Album Reviews

Album Review: Solange - When I Get Home (Columbia)

Sam Smith

The Knowles sisters are quickly becoming the masters of the surprise album drop. Beyoncé did it in 2016 with Lemonade and then again last year with husband Jay-Z in the form of Everything Is Love. Now the younger Knowles, Solange has chimed in with her own unannounced drop in the form of her fourth studio album When I Get Home.

Following on three years from her last project, the highly acclaimed A Seat At The Table (2016), When I Get Home feels in many ways like a companion album and continues with the sensual R&B stylings of that previous record. The production is quite simple and not overbearing. The album is also relatively short, coming in at around thirty-nine minutes meaning it sometimes feels like one continuous piece. Each song flows nicely into the other aided by the odd interlude, another feature continued from her last album giving the album an almost film score like quality.

While A Seat At The Table featured big singles such as Cranes In The Sky, When I Get Home by in large forgoes that route and instead tries to entice the listener into treating It as one complete set of songs. This is perhaps part of the reason why Solange decided not to promote this record with singles, instead choosing to follow in her sister’s footsteps by releasing a thirty-three-minute companion film. This is also another sign of the ever-increasing album release spectacle where fans are getting not just an album of songs but a visual accompaniment. This is a lot more than just music, this is art.

As is often the case with the Knowles sisters, there is a touch of politics sprinkled across this album and again black empowerment is at its core. Once again Solange uses these short interludes to feature black voices, in particular women, with just some of the samples featured including that of her Houston neighbours Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad, and Diamond and Princes from Atlanta hip hop group Crime Mob.

With her last two records, Solange has quickly established herself as an R&B force who can rival her sister. She co-wrote and co-produced every song on When I Get Home and comes across here as an artist in complete control of her musical destiny.

There are no big pop bangers on this record or standout guest features and this is part of the mystique that Solange has created for her music, keeping it simple and outside the norm of what a typical R&B album should sound like in the twenty-first century.

More and more music fans are wanting this style of ethereal R&B with people like Blood Orange, Serpentwithfeet, and even Frank Ocean happy to deliver. Solange is very much wrapped up in this crowd and with albums like this new one, I am sure she is going to continue to win new fans keen for something different out of R&B.

 

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Released: 01 Mar 2019

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.