This time around, her fourth studio album, When I Get Home, is more about feeling.
Three years ago, when Solange released A Seat At the Table, she had lots say. This time around, her fourth studio album, When I Get Home, is more about feeling. Only thirty-nine minutes long, the abstract, jazz-like addition to the singer’s catalogue takes us on a cosmic journey through her hometown, Houston, Texas–as seen through the futuristic lens of her imagination.
The album flows in a way akin to spiritual chanting, with most of its lyrics repeated several times, perhaps intended to place listeners under a trance so that the complete work be more deeply felt, remembered, and connected to. It opens with “Things I Imagined,” with Knowles repeating the title of the song over dreamy synths and electric piano. In a sense, letting us know that what’s to follow is a byproduct of her dream or meditative state.
Strung together by a series of hazy interludes, the nineteen tracks are laden with layer upon layer of musical easter eggs, impressive transitions, and features–some of which are not so obvious to the ear upon first or even third listen. Funky and flirtatious ode to candy paint, “Way To The Show,” features background vocals from singer Cassie. Tyler the Creator can be heard on the “My Skin My Logo” outro, on which he and Steve Lacy have production credits. While Tyler is technically on the song, the feature credit goes to Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane, who shares an affectionate exchange of bars with Solo, where they each detail what the other has an affinity for. Some other notable background vocals, features, and production credits include Playboi Carti, Pharrell Williams, Sampha, ABRA, Scarface and Dev Hynes.
While this body of work is arguably free-form and in direct opposition of the musical status quo, as far as what is widely expected from both album and song structure, Solange still finds a way to weave in the familiar and enjoyable sounds of her hometown. Songs like Metro Boomin produced crowd favorite ‘Stay Flo,’ and feel-good bop “Binz” provide upbeat intermissions from the project’s more sedative melodies. “Binz” features background vocals from The-Dream, who also lent his voice to “Almeda,” a racially themed groove that aimed to evoke a feeling similar to the one given to us by “F.U.B.U.” on ‘A Seat at the Table.”
Because the themes and lyrics on A Seat at the Table were so clear, I think many of the ones present on ‘When I Get Home’ may be overlooked. On “Can’t Hold the Mic (interlude),” Solange alludes to why it may be hard to put a finger on these themes:
“I can’t be a singular expression of myself, there’s too many parts, too many spaces, too many manifestations…”
While this album is without a doubt an ode to Houston, it’s so much more. It’s a meditation. A series of mantras and affirmations that encourage blackness, freedom, and what could happen at the intersection of those two things. The album is lush with rich sounds, meant to serve as a score for the listeners’ thoughts. Like in guided meditation or prayer, Solange leads us but allows space for us to fill the “silence” with our own interpretation of what we hear and feel. Spirituality is a common theme throughout the project and it’s accompanying promotional music video of the same name.
Knowles closes the album in prayer. On “I’m A Witness,” she affirms that she is a “vessel” for her god’s work, and that she will continue to make herself available to pass these messages on to the world. When I Get Home is a transcendent work revealing a window into Solange’s mind, her faith, and her culture; and possibly into our own.