Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this new series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
Nkechi Anele, Saskwatch: Solange – ‘A Seat At The Table’
The week Solange’s A Seat at the Table dropped I sent my best friend a text with a link to the film clip of the album’s ninth song, and the message ‘she went there’.
Don’t touch my hair when it’s the feelings I wear… Don’t touch my soul, when it’s the rhythm I know…
In four minutes and sixteen seconds, Solange manages to break down what hair really means for woman of colour; the stories it holds and the journey to accepting ourselves despite being told (either by media, society, family or friends) that this aspect about us, along with many others, needs to be repressed, and she doesn’t stop there.
A Seat at the Table is more than an album. It’s a diary, a confessional, a body of work, a piece of art. Not only does this album break down what it means to be a black and proud woman, it does so much more. In the face of mainstream media, Solange shows us a part of her that isn’t perfect. Breaking down the facade of perfection and drawing back to her roots, whether that be through family or inner realisations that have taken her years to come to.
We’re told that we stop growing and changing when we finish puberty but it isn’t true, and in a Phoenix-like fashion Solange introduces you to her masterpiece with ‘Rise’, a song built on gentle R’n’B harmonies that are caressed by a basic piano melody, a subtle bass and synths climaxing.
From there we are led through ‘Weary’ where more rhythmic beats are introduced to support the lyrics that address the fears black people have when it comes to the world at large. It is hard to forget the year that was 2016, but what’s more important is to see that year as a build up of things that were already going wrong. Despite Solange being a part of the Beyhive pop royalty, she is still a woman of colour and an American living in a country where it is still somewhat dangerous to be black.
From here, we arrive at arguably the best song on this album, ‘Cranes in the Sky’. Race politics aside, this song so aptly grasps how lost we all feel as adults going through life. We are brought up believing that we are meant to be able to understand and do everything by the time we are seen as grown up. What hits hard is the truth behind the lyrics of this song that we all feel. How many times have you gotten drunk to feel numb or to forget how miserable you feel? How many times have you gone on a spending spree, a work frenzy, a night out where you want to lose yourself to whatever; whether that be to the music, money, alcohol or the embrace of a stranger?
Throughout the rest of the album, she goes through a myriad of topics and emotions, from what it means to be black, a female, a musician to just chilling with her friends and creating mad sonic beats, matched with even crazier harmonies. Intertwined throughout her songs are interludes which play out as vignettes, expressing the opinions of those close to her. These conversations are quite candid and cover a whole range of emotions and experiences. They talk about what it means to be in the world now and the push to make it through a world that was seemingly scary to live in.
These are conversations that I grew up on. These are conversations that people of colour have when they get together, away from the everyday. These are the conversations that you rarely get to hear outside the circle of close family and friends of colour.
Not only is this album giving voice to those who aren’t normally heard (outside of these circles) a seat at the global table through music, Solange is also offering you a seat at hers.
Saskwatch’s fourth studio album ‘Manual Override’ is out August 4th.
Read more album tributes in our Love Letter To A Record series, here.