With the salty taste of tears in my mouth and goose bumps gripping my skin, I ran my fingers through the kinks and curls of my natural hair while nodding in agreement to every word sang as I listened to Solange Knowles’ A Seat at the Table. I clearly underestimated how much I’d have to mentally prepare myself before delving into this neo soul album. Knowles’ newest masterpiece was released on September 30, following Solo Star, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams and True, making this the soul singer’s fourth album.
A Seat at the Table is a beautifully crafted lamentation drenched in pain, confusion and power. It is a phenomenal display of resistance and pride that unapologetically drips in melanin and demands humanization of black lives. Knowles’ music raises a subliminal middle finger to the systemic racism that comes along with being black in America. In “Mad”, featuring Lil Wayne, she challenges the angry black woman rhetoric by peeling back layers of injustice to expose the unhealed wounds that are constantly being ignored and improperly bandaged by anti-black, racist systems.
The record has eight interludes that discuss revolution, love and black struggle, including “Tina Taught Me” by Knowles’ mother, Tina Lawson, who expresses how much beauty she sees in blackness and why we shouldn’t need to suppress that pride. The use of different voices in this record allows for a range of experiences to be represented, as these speakers differ in age, gender and sex and exude the painfully stunning complexities of blackness. The record also changes tenses by recognizing atrocities against black folks in the past, how those events are being reproduced in present day America and the eagerness and uncertainty of knowing what will happen next.
With over 21 years of experience in the being black department, many tracks on Knowles’ album are all too relatable. My feelings of fear and restlessness are validated in “Weary” and I am reminded of how frustrating it is to be treated like a dog being pet without permission in “Don’t Touch My Hair”– a quirky yet very serious song that takes a deeper look into the consequences of microaggressions.
Running slightly over fifty minutes, A Seat at the Table took me through a terrifying yet liberating journey of what it means to move around the world – and America more specifically – in a black body. Not only is the intense use of drums and piano on the tracks a way to emphasize emotion, but the exquisite visuals in her “Cranes in the Sky” video is reassurance that this album is more than just a brilliant portrayal of art, but a much needed call for change that couldn’t have come at a better time.