Review: When I Get Home by Solange


Singer-songwriter Solange Knowles performs onstage at Day For Night Festival on December 17, 2017 in Houston, Texas. 

Jake Bell

On Solange’s 2016 opus, “A Seat at the Table,” she offered up her take on the black experience in America, intertwined with personal narrative, and took that table she wanted a seat at and flipped it over.

It’s been three years since that project released, and the music scene had been thirsting for what Beyonce’s lesser-known, but equally talented sister would do next. Would she explore similar themes as “Table,” or would she break new ground and amaze fans again? 

Last fall, Solange gave an interview stating the album would use some familiar inspiration from jazz and soul music but would expand percussion-wise and “make your trunk rattle a little.” Last week, Solange took over the BlackPlanet website, a now defunct social media platform from the mid-2000s, to debut new images and clues.

A day later, a strange drawing of shapes and straight lines emerged, revealing the song titles from her new album in the form of an architect’s sketchbook. Finally, Solange’s new record, “When I Get Home,” was released Friday. 

“When I Get Home” is a very different album from “A Seat the Table” in the sense that “Table” relies heavily on fragile, open anecdotes of Solange’s past, whereas her new record scraps familiar song structure in favor of more mysterious ambiguity. On the first track, “Things I Imagined,” Solange repeats the line “I saw things, I imagined” over an enchanting Stevie Wonder inspired instrumental.

This track feels like the bridge between where “Table” leaves off and “When I Get Home” begins its new, strange journey.

Right after this song, Solange’s hometown, Houston, begins to show its influence on this album. Houston is known for being the hometown of “chopped and screwed” music, a style where samples are cut up, slowed down and manipulated for interesting outcomes. On “Down With the Clique,” Solange breaks out into her mind-bogglingly high falsetto and then transitions into a repetitive hook: “Down with ya, down with ya.”

Often times on this record, Solange repeats the same word many times over the course of a song. On the initial listen, many will have the critique this repetition is lazy and shows a lack of ideas and content. However, upon listening extensively, I feel like this repetition has an esoteric quality. 

She takes a theme like her ambitions on the song “Dreams,” and uses the repetition to show her multilayered thoughts on dreams. She sings:

“Dreams, they come a long way, not today

 Dreams, they come a, they come a long way

 They come a, they come a long way

They come un-, they come undone

They come a-, they come around”

This album’s soul inspirations blend perfectly with the “chopped and screwed” flare, which provides a number of strange references and easter eggs. For those willing to take the deeper dive, this album is deeply fulfilling upon many listens. The trap percussion and heavy bass mixed with the more traditional soul instrumentation creates a new sound: futuristic, meditative R&B.

Solange has employed a number of features from hip hop’s latest stars, such as Playboi Carti on the album’s standout track, “Almeda.” Carti adds his baby-esque rapping technique to this track about embracing heritage, and the outcome is phenomenal. Gucci Mane appears on the track, “My Skin My Logo,” a poignant response to the many high fashion brands being accused of cultural appropriation, offensive designs and lack of diversity in their infrastructure.

Overall, this album is far less bold message-wise than “A Seat at the Table,” but a lack of story based through line does not detract from this album’s other amazing qualities.

Solange is referencing her influences on this record but making it less personal and self referential. Her lyrics are more ambiguous and carry a more intrinsic meaning that can be interpreted many ways depending on the listener. The careful repetition against the Houston soul instrumentation puts the listener in a trance. Solange has thrown away traditional compositions and adopted shorter songs that blend right into each other.

I implore you to listen to this album the whole way through, no skips or interruptions. While being a bold departure from her previous works, “When I Get Home”is a welcome addition to Solange’s catalogue, and despite its lack of grandiose messaging, it creates new flavors sonically and gives Solange the perfect backdrop to frolic from one verse to another. 

RATING: 8/10

Jake Bell is a music reviewer. Contact him at [email protected]