@saintrecords/Instagram

When Solange releases music, it seems that half the world is waiting, poised to lavish praise on her artistic endeavour and creativity. It almost seems as if it is taken for granted that her work is profound, and that it deserves any amount of artistic vindication.

The anticipation and early response to When I Get Home has been extravagant. Apple Music’s editorial notes describe it as “high art”, while Billboard calls it “sweeping” and “ambitious”. Fans on Twitter have added to this hyperbole. It’s been dubbed “beautiful”, “intellectual”, “breath-taking”.

Call it what you want, such praise is evident of the assumed brilliance which has accompanied Solange’s fourth full-length release, riding on the back of its critically-acclaimed predecessor, A Seat at the Table. This album was seminal and diverse; Solange’s voice thrived on top of punchy beats, while features were well-chosen and beneficial.

"The aim of the album is not to thrill, but it is stripped to the point of inconspicuousness"

When I Get Home is a step down from these heights, and comes across as lazy and uninspired. Musically, Solange’s voice remains its blissful self, soothing and unobtrusive. There is no danger that she has lost her silky tone, and her evident talent remains there for all to see.

What is lost from the previous release, however, is the level of musical power, and to some extent its creativity and listenable nature. To pick strong highlights from such a deliberately wispy and delicate album is difficult. No track emerges at any point to be attention-grabbing or particularly exciting. Clearly, the aim of the album is not to thrill, but it is stripped to the point of inconspicuousness.

Solange’s impressive range is rarely explored, and lyrics which could invoke so much emotion lack edge when so incongruous with the music. ‘Dreams’, one of the album’s strongest songs, has a poignant and simple message of failed ambition, yet is lost through its indistinct nature within the album.

"It is almost remarkable how such a star-studded group has failed to add distinction or body to Solange’s work" 

The album is littered with contributions from world-renowned artists. Pharrell co-produces ‘Sound of Rain’, while Tyler, The Creator and Steve Lacy add their influence to ‘My Skin My Logo’. But knowledge of the numerous and diverse features only adds to the expectation, and then disappointment at the amorphous nature of the album. It is almost remarkable how such a star-studded group has failed to add distinction or body to Solange’s work.

As for the lyricism, Solange’s reliance on the repetition of lyrics may represent creativity in its first few instances, but its employment in every track makes it tired and frustrating. We know she can write minimalist songs with great poignancy, but at times, more complexity is needed for contrast, so as to highlight the beauty within her simplicity.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Beirut’s Gallipoli: Resonant and understated melancholia

‘Binz’ stands out both musically and lyrically, portraying more than any other track a genuine chemistry between Solange and her features, as production by Panda Bear, and The-Dream’s cowriting, fuse well with Solange’s voice. Here, more than anywhere, she finds the right balance between her eerily disinterested tone and jazz-infused backing. Elsewhere, it seems unremarkable and jaded.

This is not to entirely write off the album, since it evidently holds artistic merit, while playing a deft role as a collection of delicate and subtle tracks. It is hard, though, not to feel disappointed when listening to the end product of so many influences, further burdened by expectation following her previous album.

"It does find a home behind the scenes, but given Solange’s evident ambitions for poignancy and cutting lyricism, this is a disappointing conclusion"

When I Get Home too easily fades into the background: you could read a book and scarcely notice it playing, such is its lack of force or intrigue. It does therefore find a home behind the scenes, but given Solange’s evident ambitions for poignancy and cutting lyricism, this is a disappointing conclusion. It marks the album as one which fails to fulfil the potential of the artists and ideas which contributed to it, falling short of its notably high expectations.