Solange’s eagerly-awaited fourth studio album is one that is crafted with purpose, leading listeners on an assured path with every single note of its calming, blissful production.
While the lengthy tracklist is made up of impressive credits that includes Pharrell Williams, Sampha and Tyler, the Creator that’s not why it shines. The offering – poignantly released on March 1st, as Black History Month gives way to National Women’s History Month – beautifully represents the message that Solange has always tried to convey with her music, while still bringing in something unexpected.
Opening with ‘Things I Imagined’, it’s a vocal tour de force which makes an impact simply for the fact that Solange changes the inflection in her voice in such quick succession that we don’t realise she’s singing the same line 16 times in a row.
Following track ‘Down With The Clique’ is the first indication of her jazz influences, as the hypnotic instrumentals blend with soaring vocals to take us on slightly psychedelic journey. But jazz is not her only influence, as she explores a mix of soundscapes within the 19-track production, including funk in ‘Way to The Show’, reggae in ‘Binz’ and elements of electronic music, slightly in ‘Stay Flo’ and much more heavily in ‘Sound Of Rain’.
Each track, whether a fun dance track such as ‘Stay Flo’ or lyrically-charged ‘Almeda’ where Solange sings about black identity – “Black skin, black braids, black waves, black days, black baes, black days / These are black-owned things / Black faith can’t still be washed away” – has a place within the record, functioning as a perfectly placed cog in a musical machine.
Sound is the most important part of ‘When I Get Home’, as it flits between different genres with an ease that goes unnoticed. But messages conveyed are just as important as in the impactful spoken word interludes ‘Can I Hold The Mic’ and ‘We Deal With The Freak’n’, where she celebrates female empowerment.
But the highlight of the album is ‘Dreams’, a slow-build track that seems to focus on her heavenly vocals before taking a surprising twist with robotic, psychedelic glitching. Other stand-outs are ‘Jerrod’ – which combines simplistic instrumentals with clear vocals – and final track ‘I’m A Witness’, that crescendos to a brilliant end.
The album is driven by an assured sense of direction, always aware of where it’s going, never losing itself even as it experiments. Where it fails are with its weak lyricism – salvaged by Solange’s soulful delivery – and its long length, as it sometimes sees your attention straying from the well-made music.
Overall, ‘When I Get Home’ is a triumph, and is the kind of album you put on to reach your calming, safe place, when you get home at the end of a long day.
Words: Malvika Padin
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