When she dropped the digital release of her new album A Seat at the Table a couple of days ago, Solange quickly started trending worldwide on Twitter, having stoked interest in the project with the digital release of the album’s art work and accompanying poetry just a few days earlier. Seat quickly went to #1 on the iTunes chart, a sweet validation of Solange’s vision. She wrote, arranged and co-produced all twenty-one tracks, pulling in assists (and only assists) from the likes of the great Raphael Saadiq, Questlove, Tweet, Sampha, Master P, Lil’ Wayne, and Dev Hynes, and in the process creating what has to be one of the most aurally chill pro-Black/pro-Woman manifestos ever set to music. It’s feminine, tough, smart, vulnerable, dreamy, and painfully grounded in the here and now. And it’s somehow fitting that it dropped the same weekend that Netflix crashed from the number of folks trying to watch “Luke Cage.”
Solange has long been as much a visual artist as a recording one, a point underscored in the two music videos she just dropped – “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair” – from Seat. She co-created them with her husband, music video director Alan Ferguson. “Cranes” is a meditative clip; the beat-driven but insanely soothing track bumps against a series of varied vignettes that show Black women in solidarity, and Solange as an isolated figure. There are heavy nods toward Afro-Futurism. (The clip is also very similar in feel, aesthetic and vibe to some of the recent, underrated videos of Corinne Bailey Rae.) “Don’t Touch My Hair,” a manifesto on the politics of Black hair (specifically for Black women) and how those politics reverberate on many levels, pointedly shows Solange rocking a wide array of hairstyles ranging from Josephine Baker’s trademarked ‘do to Patrice Rushen beaded braids, with a slew of options in between. It has multiple settings: church, a dance studio, fashion shoots, and space ship interiors. Both clips exist in flowing, shifting terrain that blurs nature and artifice, high fashion and hip-hop (and the place where the two have firmly set up shop together), masculine and feminine, art house and ‘round the way, and all while being firmly rooted in Blackness.
All images courtesy the artist.