Is making pop music a “knack” or is it something consciously and deliberately done?
That, more than anything else is what Solange Knowles, younger sister of some other relatively popular singer, forces us to ask ourselves as we listen to A Seat at the Table, her latest offering, which arrived last night.
See, unlike Big Sis, who’s pop sensibilities absolutely cannot be questioned, Solange, as a artist, has always striven to carve out her own space which has included, at times, that 60’s teen-phenom sound, 70s funk/soul and now, currently the sort of mellow groves that anybody old enough to remember D’Angleo, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu’s movement, which was absurdly labeled “neo soul”, first wrought.
Listen to the first track “Rise”, or let “Don’t Touch My Hair” make your dick hard. If you knew sounds like this, you’ve certainly missed them.
Solange, who’s former musical highlights were probably the songs “T.O.N.Y” and “Champagne Chronik Nightcap” seems to have forgone attempts at cheeky alternative stylings when she reaches straight for the space made vacant by the death of Minnie Riperton with songs like “Where Do We Go”.
Which isn’t to say that the offering isn’t without missteps. “F.U.B.U.” for all it’s good intentions, comes across as something perhaps initially offered to Rihanna who in turn walked away screaming “Oh, hell no!”
And “Don’t Wish Me Well” is one of those uselessly exhausting songs that you just want to end before you kill yourself by, say, flagging down a police officer.
“Scales” is also another maudlin dragging waste of life almost Drake-Views level bad which leaves one imagining that if young Ms. Knowles and young Mr. Graham were to have progeny, that kid would certainly be born wearing black nail polish.
“Weary” is anything but.
“Cranes in the Sky” is the sorta song you need to find the vein for.
“Don’t You Wait” has it’s moments but is mostly neither here nor there.
“Borderline” sounds like it was ripped straight from Joss Stone‘s catalog – which is a good thing.
And “Mad” happily reminds us that Lil Wayne is a musical artist and not some sort of eternal litigant.
Meanwhile, New Orleans rap legend Master P wanders throughout the offering on interludes coming across intermittently as an esteemed African elder offering pearl-based life insights and a meandering drunkard ranting about the perils of Reaganomics.
Which brings us back to our first premise:
If we’re to argue that pop is indeed a knack, then the Beatles – who invented that shit – and Michael Jackson – who mastered it – were just fortuitous recipients of a lucky turn of fate.
But if it’s something consciously and deliberately done, than the aforementioned Drake, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and up until recently, Solange’s own sister, are geniuses able to plumb the recesses of sound just to find a diamond sharp enough to cut through the public’s constant initial resistance to the idea of anything new.
Solange does not have that knack, thankfully.
Hers will always be the type of career where each offering will be greeted with equal parts enthusiasm and dread.
And while A Seat at the Table does little to unseat my pick for Album of the Year, asshole Kanye West’s outstanding The Life of Pablo, I’d drop it in the ring with Anti and Lemonade and do anything but try to pick a winner in that particular battle royal.