More To Hear
In 2017, Solange staged an intimate and somewhat unprecedented performance at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum. Mixing theater and movement with live reinterpretations of songs from her Grammy-winning album A Seat at the Table, the event featured 30-odd performers, including a horn section and dancers, tracing the building’s iconic spiraled balconies. No phones. All-white dress code. It was ambitious, to say the least. But the event also crystallized something her fans already knew: More than just a musician, Solange—like Kanye West or her sister, Beyoncé—represents an expansion of the roles black artists can play and the spaces they can inhabit, a tearing down of boundaries that might have, until fairly recently, kept performers like her out.
Born in 1986 and raised in Houston, Solange started her career in her mid-teens, performing occasionally with her sister’s group, Destiny’s Child (which her father, Mathew Knowles, managed), before making her solo debut with 2002’s Solo Star. After a string of auxiliary projects (including writing work on Beyoncé’s 2006 LP B’Day), she returned with 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, an album that braided Motown-style songwriting with electronic production, bridging retro and contemporary, mainstream and alternative, R&B and indie-rock sensibilities.
But it was 2016’s A Seat at the Table that put her into rare air. Expansive, subtle, mellow but defiant, the album became something of an instant classic, a bellwether (alongside work by artists such as Frank Ocean) of R&B as art music, sketching the plight of modern black women in ways that felt both universal and strikingly personal. Her 2019 LP When I Get Home was equally personal, and played like a richly layered love letter to her Houston upbringing. It was accompanied by an experimental (but ambitious) short film, co-directed by visionary filmmaker Terence Nance, that nodded to motifs from her Guggenheim performance.
- Houston, TX, United States of America