From first listening to A Seat at The Table, one can immediately tell that Solange poured her heart into her craft. The production and the lyrics of the album were breathtaking, and five years later, it still forms the paradox of an album that is both timely and timeless.
A Seat at The Table wasn’t only a cathartic experience for Solange, but a necessary experience for its listeners to hear. Released a month before the outcome of the 2016 election, the album delves into important social issues, including gentrification and policing of Black women’s bodies, along with the human emotions of anger, heartbreak and joy.
Here, we share our favorite highlights from the album, and discuss its legacy and what it means to us.
Ayesha: “Cranes in the Sky,” “Mad (with Interlude: Dad Was Mad),” “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)”
Adesuwa: “FUBU,” “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “Don’t You Wait,” “Interlude: Tina Taught Me”
ADESUWA’S ALBUM HIGHLIGHTS:
This track is an acknowledgment of the Black 90s fashion brand, but it’s also a cry for solidarity for Black people to be in communion with one another. The song creates a safe space for Black people to be heard and not feel judged for representing Black beauty. Solange states in this song that “this shit is for us,” and her words hit me to the core of my soul when I first heard them. I love how Solange will always give Black people, especially Black women, a safe space to be themselves and feel heard through her music. I also love the vocal riffs and runs between Solange and BJ the Chicago at the finale of the song; the roots of gospel music emanate throughout her vocals.
“Interlude: Tina Taught Me”
Mama Tina Knowles Lawson expresses her stance about how being pro-Black doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re anti-white — Solange’s mother’s words are not only a reminder to Black people to be proud of their skin, but a reflection of Lawson’s legacy upon her daughter.
“Don’t Touch My Hair”
One of the highlights of the album, Solange celebrates her powerful crown: her hair. This song is an anthem for Black people, especially Black women. It’s not just a message about touching someone’s hair, but about the audacity to not regulate someone’s Blackness and make them feel ostracized.
“Don’t You Wait”
Possibly my favorite track on A Seat at the Table, this song speaks about the critical acclaim of Solange’s previous album, True, and addresses her white critics. Some of my favorite lines from this album are from this song:
“Now I don’t want to bite the hand that’ll show me the other side,
But I don’t want to build the land that has fed you your whole life
Don’t you find that funny?”
These lyrics are a critique of a comment from white music critic John Caramonica, which Solange considered a turning point while creating A Seat at the Table. These lyrics demonstrate the reclamation of power over not just one’s artistry, but also one’s humanity.
AYESHA’S ALBUM HIGHLIGHTS:
“Cranes in The Sky”
Arguably Solange’s most popular song, “Cranes in the Sky” is a sad but calm ode to a breakup. The song is inspired by the image of construction ruining a city skyline. Solange compares her attempts to distract herself from heartbreak with drinking, sex, money and work, to ridding the horizon of its ugly metal cranes. This song won a Grammy for “Best R&B Performance,” and it isn’t hard to see why. Solange’s voice is heavenly on this track: her vocals perfectly convey that desire to rise up and float away.
“Mad” (feat. Lil Wayne)
“Mad” is a song about pain, and how that pain is dismissed by others. The song benefits greatly from the presence of rapper Lil Wayne, who reflects on his own life, asking:
“Are you mad ’cause the judge ain’t give me more time?
And when I attempted suicide, I didn’t die?”
Solange’s own father also makes an appearance on the preceding track, with the interlude, “Dad Was Mad.” As he recounts the racial violence in his own childhood, the song’s piano line plays in the background. The piano flows into Solange’s first verse uninterrupted, just as the generational anger passes from father to daughter.
“Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)”
Back in 2016, the phrase “self-care” was not used (arguably, overused) as often as it is now. On “Borderline,” Solange explores the definition of self-preservation and walks the line between activism and health. She pleads to a lover, whether an individual or a larger community, to take the night off and rest with her. “It’s war outside these walls,” she cries, “you know you’re tired, know I’m tired.”
Five months before the release of A Seat at the Table, Solange’s older sister Beyoncé released her magnum opus Lemonade. The visual album was lauded for its cinematic and expressive portrayal of Black pride. A Seat at the Table could be seen as Lemonade’s softer, more melancholy counterpoint. Where Beyoncé utilizes marching bands and extravagant production, Solange’s quiet but intense contemplation is a whole other art form. Even five years after its release, A Seat at the Table is as fresh and innovative as ever.
Adesuwa Carlton is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Ayesha Chari is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].