Houston homage: ‘When I Get Home’ dazzles, mystifies

Solange’s latest album When I Get Home stuns audience with her aesthetic visuals and soothing vocals that create a sense of nostalgia. 

Solange’s latest album When I Get Home stuns audience with her aesthetic visuals and soothing vocals that create a sense of nostalgia. 

Image By: Photo courtesy of Spotify

In 2016 Solange released A Seat At the Table, which became her most acclaimed and commercially successful album. It cemented Solange’s identity as one of the most innovate R&B artists. This Friday she released her fourth studio album When I Get Home which is accompanied by a visual: “When I Get Home” a Texas Film. This R&B pop-infused album explores themes of community, race and femininity in a fresh and palpable way. 

Though nineteen tracks long, the album is just under 40 minutes with no shortages of intermissions and interludes that help build the album flow instrumentally as well as thematically. As Solange moves through concepts of time and geography, the album is broken up with excerpts of poem readings, speeches and videos. The album features vocals and production credits from prominent artists such as: Metro Boomin, Earl Sweatshirt, Sampha, Pharrell and Tyler, The Creator. 

Solange opens with “Things I Imagined,” bringing us into her ethereal, dream-like album — her sweet vocals layered atop an almost celestial sounding synthesizer. She prepares us for a sentimental journey through her childhood and culture. She incorporates elements of cosmic jazz which sound a bit like an old arcade. The instrumentals build a spiritual atmosphere that invokes a sense of nostalgia. 

A big theme of this album is Solange’s home:  Houston, Texas and the African American culture of that city. In “Way to the Show” she sings of the candy paint used on cars — “Way to the show, candy paint down open doors.” She uses references that are specific to Houston and Southern African American pop culture. These decked out cars are featured in the visuals as well as  “Sound of Rain” and “My Skin My Logo” where she sings about “swangin” in them. 

“Can I Hold the Mic” is a short interlude where Solange asserts her multifaceted creativity over an organ. She acknowledges that she cannot fit everything into “a singular expression, there’s too many parts.” This album feels so unique in terms of aesthetics. There are remarkable visuals streaming on Spotify. The movie — which is available on Apple Music — features several different scenes inspired by western, African, psychedelic and futuristic elements fluidly transcending themes just as the music transcends mediums. 

“Almeda,” named after an area of Houston is the most solid as a single. An ode to black persistence and culture. She sings “Black waves, black days/ Black baes, Black things/ These are black-owned things.” She acknowledges the everlasting spirit and ingenuity of the community despite structural inequality and cultural appropriation. Playboi Carti is then brought on at the end of the track, trying out a chopped and screwed style of hip-hop. Distinct to the Houston area, this specific style slows and distorts the beat— making for an interesting combination of Carti’s mumble rap and Solange’s vocals. 

In the slow jazz track “My Skin My Logo” Solange and Gucci Mane banter about their favorite things. Solange also boasts in the empowered “Binz” despite the racial discrimination she had to face. She sings in “Can’t see me, no flex, be kind/ Dollars never show up on CP time.” She asserts her success as a grown woman while juxtaposing with a younger spirit on the velvety track “Dreams.” 

She uses the short track “Beltway” and “Exit Scott” interlude to paint the sounds of driving into Houston. It transitions from heaving thumping bass into a warm choir, as if she is taking you closer to her home. This creates a perfect transition into Pharrell’s iconic four-count beat as “Sound of Rain” begins and the album nears its end. 

While few of the tracks stand out as singles, that was not Solange’s intention. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, and most ideally with the visuals. Solange has an impressive artistic range from fashion to music to dance and music videos. She culminates all of her talents to create a holistic vision and while ambitious When I Get Home certainly met that goal. 

Final Grade: A

Molly Carmichael is a music columnist for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.

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