Review: ‘When I Get Home’ by Solange is her tribute to home and self-expression

In Arts & Entertainment, Features, Lifestyle, Music, Reviews
This is an illustration of Solange from her latest album "When I Get Home."
(Rebecca Mena / Daily Titan)

Whirls of overlapping voices, paired with alternate beat switch-ups, repetitive lyrics and thought-provoking ad-libs and interludes make Solange’s latest album “When I Get Home” into something more than a redundant radio bop — she’s manifested her Houston roots and self-expression into a free-flowing masterpiece.

Listeners should know that “When I Get Home” isn’t an album for everyone. The record deserves a second listen before deciding whether to love it or hate it — with each track’s minute production and the album’s symmetry, it’s unlikely to fully appreciate the album otherwise.

This 19-track album demands attention so playing it as background noise won’t entice the same impressions as it does to listeners who are enveloping themselves into the smooth track elapses, surreal rhythms and lyricism.

March 1 marked the day Solange enchanted listeners with an ode to her roots with “When I Get Home.” Along with her album, Solange released a 33-minute exclusive film on iTunes that encompasses the album’s tracks with inventive visuals.

Growing up in Houston, Texas this album plays two roles in Solange’s life: A tribute to home and the freedom to produce her emotions through a peculiar artistic expression while still having the support of her friends and fans.

“Thank you for always giving me the space to expand and evolve and express,” Solange said on an Instagram post. “It’s been hard to answer where home is, hard to know if it’s past or future … this album and film is one stream of thought and reflection into answering that.”

The first noticeable aspect of “When I Get Home” is the cover art compared to Solange’s last album in 2016 “A Seat at the Table.”

This is an illustration of Solange from her 2016 album "A Seat at the Table."
(Rebecca Mena / Daily Titan)

Solange’s 2016 album cover featured a close up of herself with her hair decorated with blue and pink hair clips. The cover portrayed Solange as innocent and pure, almost like a Disney princess as she’s featured under dimmed light alluding to her intimacy, but “When I Get Home” is the direct opposite.

“When I Get Home” illustrates darkened undertones creating a vintage look. Solange looks fierce and powerful as her hair falls naturally onto her back instead of in front, and her posture appears more dominant.

In a time where interludes and ad-libs produce or murder an album, Solange’s five interludes are insightful and conceptual. Three interludes that imprint the album the most are “S McGregor,” “Can I Hold the Mic” and “Exit Scott.”

“S McGregor” is sampled from a poem called “On Status” by Vivien Ayers, in which the interlude is sampled from a performance by Ayers’ daughters. This is a direct theme of “When I Get Home” as it touches base on where home actually is after realizing that the overwhelming feeling of loneliness is stronger than the urge of leaving home.

“Can I Hold the Mic” is another personal interlude that notes the many creative angles Solange takes. Her songs may be repetitive, but she is careful not to be too redundant as each track (in of itself) features an ever-changing structure and production.

“I can’t be a singular expression of myself, there’s too many parts, too many spaces, too many manifestations, too many lines, too many curves, too many troubles, too many journeys, too many mountains, too many rivers, so many,” Solange said on the track.

“Exit Scott” is her most intimate interlude on the album as Solange professes her love through a sampled poem by Pat Parker, and then dives into the next song “Sound of Rain” where she continues her simp-filled love song of being stripped from a connection by her significant other.

“If it were possible to place you in my brain and let you roam around, in and out my thought waves, you would never have to ask, ‘Why do you love me?’” Parker said in a distorted voice.

As for the songs, “Things I Imagined” is the opening track and sets the dream-like mood for the entirety of the record. Although the lyrics don’t have much variation, they prepare the listener to expect a repetitive style.

The third track, “Down with the Clique” correlates with its prior interlude “S McGregor” as Solange talks about chasing riches and taking her clique along with her, but much like the interlude, instead of being joyous, she begins to lose a sense of self.

Concluding the album is “I’m a Witness,” which brings the record full circle. In the final verse of “Things I Imagined,” Solange sings “taking on the light” five times. During the last track she revisits those same lines, but instead of a hopeful outlook, Solange refines herself with prevailing confidence, “and I won’t stop ’til I get it right.”

Solange’s most recent album features a plethora of bangers, but for first-time listeners of Solange “A Seat at the Table” is a better first approach before starting “When I Get Home” as her previous album is less ambiguous.

“When I Get Home” is for long-time Solange fans and for those who enjoy artistry in an unconventional way — Solange isn’t sticking to the basics like most radio stars. Solange is playing with harmonies, tone, interludes, instrumentals, samples, production magic and a myriad of featured artists, all in the name of self-expression and figuring out where home really is.

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