The (Renewed) Importance of “A Seat at the Table”

Solange Knowles’ new album “A Seat at the Table” directly addresses sexism and racism, while also expressing her confidence and success in the music industry. | Photo courtesy of fonzfranc.com

Solange Knowles’ new album “A Seat at the Table” directly addresses sexism and racism, while also expressing her confidence and success in the music industry. | Photo courtesy of fonzfranc.com

Laura Green ’18
Arts Editor

Solange Knowles released “A Seat at the Table” on Sept. 30, but given the week many people in the Smith community and across the country have been having it seemed especially relevant as the perfect rallying cry for the oppressed, the downtrodden, the sick and the tired.

“A Seat at the Table” candidly proclaims what it’s like to live as a black woman in America, openly taking pride in her blackness. “Walk in your ways so you won’t crumble / Walk in your ways so you can sleep at night / Walk in your ways so you can wake up and rise” ends the short first track of the album, entitled “Rise.” The light but poignant musical backdrop lets Knowles’ voice and words take center stage, setting up the rest of the album beautifully. It’s all about living your truth to get through the day, a highly pertinent message.

In describing the album, Knowles herself says it best in an interview with DIY Magazine, saying that “A Seat at the Table” is “an invitation to allow folks to pull up a chair, get very close and have these hard uncomfortable truths be shared.” She goes on to say, “It’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be fun, you may not get to dance to it, you’re not going to breathe easily through it, but that is the state of the times that we’re in right now. It’s my invitation … to have that voice, get messy and lay out my truths and stand firm in them.” Knowles knows that laying out your truths loud and proud is the ultimate political statement.

Knowles has moved away from the pop roots of her last full length album, “Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams” which was released in 2008. She has moved fully into the category of R&B and Soul, successfully letting the weighty lyrics stand their ground, expertly complementing them with delicate harmonies and light but powerful instrumentals.

Even before listening to the music, it is obvious that Knowles  is taking you on a journey through her black female experience, with titles such as “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “Weary,” “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care),” and in the album title itself. “A Seat at the Table” exudes not just sorrow, but eloquent empowerment and joy. This juxtaposition is clear in songs such as “Junie,” with its pure upbeat 70s funk, transitioning into one of the eight interludes “No Limits,” in which Master P tells the story of his humble beginnings before becoming a mogul. “My grandfather, he said, ‘Why you gon’ call it “No Limit?” I said, ‘Because I don’t have no limit to what I could do.’”

Alim Kheraj appropriately wrote in her DIY Magazine review of “A Seat at the Table,” “It’s okay if it’s not written for you, and that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy, respect and be in awe of its majesty and empowerment.” As a white woman, I see that this album is not about me, nor should it be. But I still see the absolute grace, poise and talent Knowles exhibits in this monumental hour-long album. It is one of the most incredible albums I have heard in a long time and it gets better with every listen.

While both Knowles sisters have been noted for embracing their blackness in their recent albums, where Beyoncé talks about her own personal marital strife, Solange tackles the issue of womanhood, especially black womanhood, in a more universal way. As Solange sings in “Mad,” “‘Why you gotta always be, why you gotta always be so mad?’ I got a lot to be mad about.”

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