Sometimes an album can feel like therapy to listeners. Other times they can feel like an escape from all the negativity of life. Many artists attempt this (with varying degrees of success), but Solange is the master of mixing these forms to near perfect harmony. After the absolute masterpiece that is 2016’s A Seat at the Table — a snapshot of the black experience in America in these increasingly volatile times — the younger Knowles sister has returned with When I Get Home, a record meant to celebrate both the excellence of her people and her hometown of Houston. Despite coming from different angles, both present a mode of healing and comfort that can become lost on the latter type of album. Pairing the neo soul of her past work with H-Town’s famous chopped-and-screwed sound, the singer creates an intriguing and powerful body of work that feels just as digestible as the standard R&B record.
A much more lively affair than its predecessor, where the articulation of the pain and resilience black people must internalize in America were the overarching themes; by contrast, When I Get Home spends most of its forty minutes demonstrating the power they have come to possess in our current culture (“Stay Flo,” “Almeda”) and how they have influenced and shifted the sound of popular music (the jazzy soundscape of “Down with the Clique” and the trap of “My Skin My Logo”). The record also features several interludes that consist of spoken word, television soundbites, and poetry; although some come off more playful than the weightier cuts of A Seat at the Table, the intention of their placement is incredibly clear.
The set tends to transition seamlessly, with tracks trailing off and building towards their successors in exquisite fashion. Solange’s delivery across the songs is as delicious as ever, her layered, Minnie Riperton-esque voice gliding serenely above the often rambunctious production below. Her collaborators — a list of which could be its own separate article — blend into the music, never making too much of an impact on a song unless necessary. While all the pieces of the record work expertly in tandem, “Dreams” is the absolute standout; a tender ode to never losing sight of your goals in the face of adversity, the track encapsulates the aim she had creating the album. On the closing track, “I’m a Witness,” the singer reiterates this objective in the line “and I won’t stop till I get it right/good night.” Like the loving mother she is, Solange nurtures and empowers not only the talents of her children (read: listeners), but also of her own, on When I Get Home. I can’t think of a better message to send us off on.
Standout tracks: “Way to the Show,” “Stay Flo,” “Dreams,” “Almeda”