Solange dropped a huge ball of artistic, musical genius on us last Friday. I listened to her fourth studio album When I Get Home, and immediately felt like I needed help to unpack all of the details. I even tweeted:
Luckily, Solange talked to a few journalists in Houston at her listening party and premiere of the visual album, which she directed. After much de-coding and research, here’s what I absolutely love about Solange’s new album.
- Musical inspiration from Stevie Wonder. Solange told NPR that her latest album is a tribute to Stevie Wonder’s 1979 album Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants, which she listened to a lot while writing and recording. If you know me well, you know that Stevie Wonder is the consummate musician in my book. As groundbreaking as the sound of the synthesizer was for Stevie, the chopped and screwed sound over jazz and funk rhythms is for Solange on this album. The “Secret Life” debuted to subpar reviews. Critics called it weird and said it was a shocking departure from Stevie’s melodic tunes. Stevie later explained that it was an experimental album and that he challenged himself to do the things he liked. I’ve heard similar feedback about When I Get Home. Solange said to NPR, “And with this album I had so much to feel. I had so, so much to feel, and words would have been reductive to what I needed to feel and express. It’s in the sonics for me.” One of the things I admire the most is Solange’s fearless intent to feel and be felt with a new sound. Yes, my Cancerian sister…FEEL! Like Stevie, she did it her way.
- Mantras. When I Get Home is packed with mantras for self reflection, healing and prosperity. Solange shared with NPR ” I think repetition at this place in my life has given me a lot of reinforcement—a lot of reinforcement to my spirit, my mind, and my body, and trying to align all of those things and really ground myself in them so that I really believe them.” Going in means doing the work. Try repeating “Do nothing without intention” or ” I saw things I imagined” 10 times each day. I bet you’ll see what you’ve began to call into your life.
- Collaborations. She tapped the OGs like Pharrell, Gucci and Scarface, and younger influencers like Tyler the Creator and Playboi Carti. And of course she tapped her hubby, Alan Ferguson, to help produce the film.
- Ode to Black Cowboys. Often the images we see of cowboys in American history reference them all as white men. Like Solange, we know the first cowboys were in fact Black men. Her reason for highlighting them in her video is a huge testament to why more women and men of color should be at the decision making level of fashion campaigns. Solange recalls for Refinery29, “I knew from about a year and a half ago that it was really, really important to me to be a small part in any way that I could of telling the story of black cowboys. I did a Calvin Klein campaign, which centered around Americana, and I remember getting the mood boards for these and seeing the interpretation of Americana, and not even on any controversial shit, but it was just funny to me because all of the first cowboys I saw were black.” Word. ✊🏾
- Hometown Pride. Solange hosted nine viewing parties across Houston highlighting some of the significant locations, including S.H.A.P.E. (where she went to summer camp) to Emancipation Gym (Texas’s oldest park and the only public one open to black people during Jim Crow) and Unity National Bank, the only black-owned bank in Texas, founded in 1963. One screening took place in a hair salon that was previously owned by her mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, for more than 20 years. Solange said to Vogue, “I know that at any given time in my life, I can come back here to Houston, to Third Ward, and have these anchors that really lift me up.” I totally agree. One visit home and you’re recharged with a renewed sense of self and others from a deeply rooted place. It’s magical. It’s what I feel now when I visit my family in Birmingham. I’m proud of who I am and where I’m from. Dorthy said it in The Wiz, there is no place like home.
When I Get Home is jazz, funk, electronic, R&B, screw and a little bit of trap music packed nicely into 19 tracks. My favorite tracks are “Way to the Show” and “Stay Flo.” It’s history, it’s current. It’s the future. It’s art. Most importantly, it’s good music. The album is available on all music streaming platforms.