The last four years for Solange Knowles has been a bit of a seesaw. In 2008, she released Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, the otherworldly, very adult step into the music industry—a stark difference from her vague yet still prodigal-like 2003 release, titled Solo Star; although, she wasn’t quite there yet. Now, unlabeled—literally and figuratively—Solange has pieces of a masterpiece this time around.
By Mark Corece, Contributor
True is different. Her EP, or partial album, showcases the Solange that has (co)written on more than a few charting tracks since she was a teenager. This collection of songs allows us to witness the grasp she has on being a lover and the cathartic reflections on the demise of said love, for those who’ll listen of course.
The key for Solange, though, is to get people to listen. She’s deep and not in a pop nowadays sense. Being an heir of record industry royalty—from Matthew Knowles’ decades-long hold record labels, to her sister’s talent and everyone else she has access to from Jay-Z to Robert Glasper—means she can pull from many worlds and inspirations in a seemingly uncontrived way. Not to be confused with a sense of entitlement that, say, a Braxton sister may have. She’s a hard worker. From being a laidback, accessible Afro-Centric fashion icon, where you might see her strolling in Milan or bicycling in Brooklyn.
The fist single Losing You is the stand-alone, smart first release. Thematically, it goes well with the rest of the EP and showcases some of Solange’s best attributes: her charming lyrics, engulfing voice and durable harmonies. The song feels just as international, and all encompassing as the fun and astutely directed music video (Melina Matsoukas, dir.). The song revs and accelerates as she says, “I’m not the one you should be making your enemy, I’m not the one you should be making your enemy.” The lyrics are simultaneously cautioning and affirming, part of the paradox of love—she waxes and wanes out of—throughout songs like Bad Girls and Don’t Let me Down.
This 7-track release has similar motifs. Even if the song tries to go in a different direction producer Devonté Hynes (Florence and the Machine and Basement Jaxx) strings everything together with 80s synths and melodic keys.
Don’t expect to hear what’s hot in music now or much of her past sounds. Solange, in her short career, has always been on the margins of music. Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work captures the angst of 20-something’s figuring out modern relationships, probably in an overly distracting society. It’s a hopeful track about admitting when something isn’t working (hopefully for ones own health) while leaving room for a small maybe, possibly it could work out.
Locked in Closets is a clear homage to Janet Jackson’s Control with a contemporary twist. Where Janet’s track reveled in the excitement of adulthood and a newfound freedom. Closets whimpers in blocked love, of what could be a mental paralysis or warped view of how to approach a hypothetical situation, hidden in the lyrics: “All I want is to dream of being in love with you.”
Even in our acceptance of Solange’s weird-Black-girl identity, some dynamism is missing in a track or two. The productions are clean. The lyrics are laced with mystique that compels listeners to discover new meanings in each listen, yet one can infer her 2013 album release will be much more bombastic and varied. Is True just a hint of what Sol will discuss? One can hope we’ll get a more vulnerable, even rebellious side.
Until then we’ll listen to True again and again relating lyrics to our own love, and love lost, while rocking out to some wicked tracks, sweet vocals and refreshing new-age soul.
Mark Corece is a radio personality for WWRL where he discuses world issues, he’s a film director, writer and a pragmatic thinker, among other things.