- 11 Jul 18
Following the release of her extraordinary 2016 album A Seat At The Table, Solange announced herself as one of the most gifted artists of her generation. While her early career saw her grow up in the shadow of superstar sister Beyoncé, as well enduring creative frustration and highly publicised bust-ups, the younger Knowles sister has finally, rightly, reached headliner status…
There was a telling question in Beyoncé’s interview with her little sister Solange that was published in Interview magazine last year. “You have an ability to see things before they happen,” Beyoncé said, citing Solange’s talent for identifying the best new artists, designers and DJs, “two years in advance… how do you do that?”
The question itself proved to be more revealing than any answer that Solange could’ve given – because when you’ve got Beyoncé jealous (familial relationship or not) you must be doing something right. For many music types, Solange has long been the Knowles sister that’s slightly ahead of the curve. Ever since the release of her 2008 effort Sol-Angel And The Hadley St. Dreams, a record that wore its Motown influences loudly and proudly with collaborators like Cee-Lo Green and Mark Ronson helping to bring the funk, she has received all the critical acclaim that journalists could muster, even if the commercial success wasn’t entirely immediate.
Maybe it was a sibling rivalry thing, a case of having to work twice as hard to be half as heard, but Solange’s story is one of fierce determination. A ridiculously gifted all-rounder, in addition to writing and performing, she also co-produces her material and devises her own choreography. To date she has released three albums, as well as 2012’s excellent True EP – all of which have been unique records in their own way.
In 2016, all of Solange’s hard work and aspirations led to one singular vision. A Seat At The Table was a grand document of self-realisation and seizing her own power as a black woman. ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, with its “what you say to me?” outro, became an anthem for all those run down by constant racist microaggressions. Meanwhile, ‘Cranes In The Sky’, which tackles long-standing inner turmoil, was another magnificent effort. While comparisons to the musical output of her sister had previously plagued any kind of real judgement of Solange, 2016 was the year this all changed.
Both Solange’s album and Beyoncé’s Lemonade were released within months of each other, but while the latter’s was an eye-popping compendium of genres and ideas, Solange’s was a clear-sighted refinement of psychedelic funk and soul. No longer would they be compared, they’d simply be appreciated together.
The ensuing A Seat At The Table tour saw Solange perform at the Peace Ball in the National Museum of African American History and Culture; undertake a residency at the Sydney Opera House for the city’s Vivid festival; and even exhibit the album, through staging her own interdisciplinary performance An Ode To at the Guggenheim in New York.
The Last time Solange played these shores was at Body & Soul five years ago – when she was on the same tier of the line-up as Fuck Buttons. Now she’s a star draw and headliner of her own.
The Song: ‘Cranes In The Sky’ – a lushly-produced, tender ballad about trying to move on from her first husband.
The Controversy: That elevator bust-up with Jay-Z around the time of his infidelity to Beyoncé made global headlines.
The Schtick: Slick R&B from an artist in full control.