Album Reviews, Arts & Entertainment, Music

Solange’s ‘When I Get Home’ is an avant-garde celebration of black excellence

Three years after the striking A Seat at the Table (2016), Solange released her fourth album, When I Get Home, on March 1. Accompanied by a short eponymous film, the album is an homage to the artist’s Houston roots, her birthplace, and the city’s black pioneers.

A notable departure from her last studio album, When I Get Home offers a collection of brief, episodic thoughts, with 14 of the 19 tracks clocking in under three minutes, rather than the concentrated black power anthems of A Seat at the Table. Much like in her previous works, black solidarity is at the core of many of the album’s tracks, including “Almeda” and “My Skin My Logo.” The album is meditative, transitioning beautifully from song to song, with brief yet impactful interludes, including “Can I Hold the Mic” and “Nothing Without Intention.”

The album was released with a 33-minute short film featuring Solange and an all-black cast of performers, reimagining Houston through the artist’s eyes. Rather than reconstructing the Houston of the past, the film envisions the city’s future, depicting cowboys and futuristic technology in Solange’s imagined home with an Afrofuturist aesthetic. The film’s choreography is elegant but impassioned. Solange challenges herself by producing more experimental work and in the process challenges her audience: The video’s avant-garde sensibilities might render it bewildering and difficult for some viewers, but the dazzling aesthetics qualify it as a masterpiece.

When I Get Home transports the listener—and viewer—to Solange’s childhood and home, a visceral, culturally-rich, site-specific experience. Solange names some of her tracks after Houston streets and references the city in many of the album’s songs, adding to the complex layers of the album and accompanying video. Through experimental Rhythm & Blues, Solange reclaims and creates space for black artistry and experiences. The album and short film are equally eccentric and avant-garde, paving the way for a completely new genre of art and music.

The album represents the beginning of a new chapter for Solange. The artist’s last two albums, according to her, have one significant difference: “With ‘A Seat at the Table,’ I had so much to say,” Solange said in an interview with The New York Times about one of the collection’s tracks. “And with this album, I have so much to feel.”

Rating: ★★★★★

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