Solange has released her third full-length studio album, A Seat at the Table, through Saint Records and Columbia Records. The LP contains 21-tracks covering 51 minutes.
This is a concept album deeply rooted in identity, family, community, power, and greater social implications. In addition to some of the most soulful and melodic songs of Solange’s career, this album also includes several long spoken word interludes by Master P as well as her parents Mathew and Tina Knowles.
A Seat at the Table brings the topics of race and gender to the forefront, and was inspired by an agenda pushed by New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica relating to the concept of cultural tourism. Solange shared the story of her inspiration in an interview with WQXR’s Helga Davis:
I was being told that this audience had ownership over me. That was kind of the turning point in the transition for me writing the album that is now A Seat at the Table. I began to think a lot about that conversation and replaying it, and it haunted me. And it haunted my mother to hear someone telling her daughter, ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ And also the racial subtleties — not so subtle — of what that encompasses when you say that to a black woman, and then you connect it by saying ‘Do you know who’s buying your records?’ So, I was essentially being told to shut up.
The song “Don’t You Wait” features the line, “Don’t bite the hand that shows you the other side,” which references Caramanica’s criticism of Solange, which could be called “racially insensitive” at best — although I personally would call his behavior blatantly racist and characteristic of the ugliest elements of white privilege when it comes to cultural appropriation and media bullying.
Having said all that, this is a must-listen album for fans of R&B music. It may not be fair, but Solange will always be compared to her big sister Beyonce. On this album, she proves that she is a great artist in her own right with important things to say. It also helps that an extremely talented supporting cast were involved in the production and recording of the music, including Raphael Saadiq as co-executive producer, Questlove, Majical Cloudz, Dave Sitek, Sampha, Rostam Batmanglij, Q-Tip, Kelela, Kelly Rowland, Lil Wayne, and many more.
If there is a flaw in this LP, it may be a lack of radio-friendly pop singles with universal appeal. However, even with the spoken word tracks and aggressive elements in the sounds and lyrics, this is an easy listen from front-to-back. All the songs are good, and the risks pay off in a big way making the record truly rewarding piece of art.
A Seat at the Table is currently available on Amazon. You can also stream the full LP for free above, via Spotify.
For more, check out the Solange Zumic artist page.