Solange's third studio album, A Seat at the Table, is defiantly honest, strong and unapologetically black, but a softness underlies it. As implied by the title, it is, after all, an invitation.
The album opens with "Rise," a melodic anthem that feels simple and meditative in its lyrical repetition, but "Weary" gets right to the point, exploring the weight she feels for inhabiting a black body and the prejudice she faces every day in her attempt to live and belong.
The album feels like a confessional handwritten letter that explores both the root of black rage ("Mad") and the magic inherent to blackness — the "I Got So Much Magic, You Can Have it" interlude is proof of that intent. But it's not about the wallowing in that sadness that comes with racism; rather, it's about tracing the root of these feelings and remembering the possibilities that can also exist there. Interludes like "Tina Taught Me" and "Dad Was Mad" remind listeners that this story is as much about tracing Solange's roots as moving through that anger. The album explores the validity and necessity of expressing emotions people are taught to suppress.
From the laments about micro-aggressions with tracks like "Don't Touch My Hair" to the bold track "F.U.B.U." (in reference to the iconic brand For Us By Us), Solange lays it all on the table here. "Junie" follows, a rare moment of pure celebration on the album.
Unlike Solange's previous album, which employed a more upbeat synth-pop sound, the heavy use of melody and interludes on A Seat at the Table make this album more about its heady concept and sharp lyrics than its ability to make you dance (though it can do that, too). A Seat demands a careful listen, and rewards it richly. This is Solange's strongest album to date. (Sony)