Solange Knowles – When I Get Home
Released: 1 March 2019
I was preparing for this Solange album to be densely packed with themes/messages, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. It’s less storytelling, and mostly aesthetic. In rare fashion, I feel comfortable reviewing this off 2 listens.
When I Get Home is a supreme achievement on behalf of the album’s engineers & producers. Solange’s vocals, at times, feel as a bit of an accessory to the production – the piano, bass, chord-work, mixing & mastering on this album is stunning. The amount of artists featured on this 39 minute offering is surprising: from Playboi Carti & Gucci Mane, to Tyler the Creator, Cassie and more. The engineering and creative direction is adept enough to find ways to mesh each artist into the album seamlessly and without losing Solange’s overall aura.
Creating a mood
On the intro “Things I Imagined“, the mix-master engineering immediately stands out. Solange’s vocals are mixed under the bass, with the bass driving the song (on the subject of bass…the bass guitarist [Raphael Saadiq?] goes crazy all over this album)!
On verse 1 of track #3 “Down With the Clique“, Solange deploys a nearly inaudible falsetto; although you can’t quite make out exactly what she’s saying, you can understand the emotion she is conveying, D’Angelo style. Track #4 “Way to the Show” features some extended reverb to drive home the mood and vibe of When I Get Home.
Outside of the production and engineering, there isn’t much song structure by Solange on When I Get Home. The album is 19 tracks, but only 39 minutes long, which means each song clocks in at just above 2 minutes, on average. Don’t expect stellar songwriting and bridges and choruses here. Much of When I Get Home‘s lyrical experience consists of repeated phrases – chants – such as on “Sound of Rain“, “Things I Imagined“, and “Beltway”. The goal of the album seems to be to create a mood or vibe, accomplished through intentional mixing and layered production/vocals by an assortment of features. Solange accomplishes this, although feeling a bit repetitive as the album reaches its third quarter.
VERDICT – ★★★1/2: Very good; a few bland songs or minor flaws throughout.
I‘m a sucker for good songwriting and song structure, so I can’t rate this album above Solange’s 2016 offering A Seat At The Table, which featured great songs such as “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “F.U.B.U“, but that doesn’t mean When I Get Home isn’t worth a listen. It’s easy on the ear and, overall, an easy listening experience full of reassuring mantras. I bet it will sound amazing live.
Things I Imagined: 3/5
S McGregor (interlude): n/a
Down With The Clique: 3.5/5
Way To The Show: 3.75/5
Stay Flo: 4/5
Nothing Without Intention (interlude): n/a
Almeda (feat Playboi Carti): 4/5
Time (is): 3.75/5
My Skin Logo (feat Gucci Mane): 2.75/5
We Deal With the Freak’n: n/a
Exit Scott (interlude): n/a
Sound of Rain: 3.5/5 more chants
Not Screwed (interlude): n/a
I’m A Witness: 3.25/5
TOTAL: ★★★1/2: (3.67/5)
Most of the featured artists serve as accents, except Playboi Carti and Gucci Mane who have individual verses. The other features such as Tyler, the Creator and Sampha on “Time (is)” or Cassie on “Way To the Show” are mixed into the background as additional vocals.
Check out this Okayplayer article by Elijah C. Watson for a full(er) breakdown of the album’s credits.