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A Seat at the Table is Solange's third studio album that was released on September 30, 2016 by Saint Records and Columbia Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Rise 1:41
  2. Weary 3:14
  3. Interlude: The Glory Is In You 0:17
  4. Cranes In The Sky 4:10
  5. Interlude: Dad Was Mad 0:46
  6. Mad (featuring Lil Wayne) 3:55
  7. Don't You Wait 4:05
  8. Interlude: Tina Taught Me 1:14
  9. Don't Touch My Hair (featuring Sampha) 4:17
  10. Interlude: This Moment 0:49
  11. Where Do We Go 4:24
  12. Interlude: For Us By Us 0:52
  13. F.U.B.U. (featuring The Dream and BJ the Chicago Kid) 5:13
  14. Borderline (An Ode To Self Care) (featuring Q-Tip) 3:02
  15. Interlude: I Got So Much Magic, You Can Have It (featuring Kelly Rowland and Nia Andrews) 0:26
  16. Junie 3:06
  17. Interlude: No Limits 0:39
  18. Don't Wish Me Well 4:15
  19. Interlude: Pedestals 0:57
  20. Scales (featuring Kelela) 3:39
  21. Closing: The Chosen Ones 0:42

Album BackgroundEdit

In 2009, in an interview with MTV, Solange Knowles revealed that she was determining the type of sound for the follow-up to "Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams." She rented a house in Santa Barbara, California to get into a certain state of mind while writing and making music.

In an interview with Vibe on July 7, 2010, Solange said she suffered "a little bit of a breakdown" while recording her new album: "I literally gave up my sanity for a while to do this record. [...] We literally were waking up in the morning and just making music all day and all night. [...] It just started to wear on me in so many different ways. I started having these crazy panic attacks."

Solange explained how she made sacrifices "mentally, emotionally and financially", and continued, "It's more than an album to me. It's a transitional time in my life."

While still working on her third studio album, she released an EP titled "True" for digital download on iTunes November 27, 2012.

On May 14, 2013, Solange announced that she had launched her own record label named Saint Records, which she will be using to release her third full-length album and future music projects distributed through Sony.

On May 15, 2015, she performed a new song at an HBO-sponsored event. The song, which is titled "Rise" was inspired by police killings in Ferguson and Baltimore and the subsequent protests. The song is the opening track on the album and is a funk song that utilizes synth.

The day after the performance, Solange revealed she has written 24 songs for her third studio album; the songs were written to piano, with Knowles structuring them on her own before finding the producers to finish them.

In July 2015, she announced that her third studio album was nearly complete, and that she was laying low on the performance side until her new music was complete; however, she made an exception performing at the FYF festival.

On her 30th birthday, she stated that she completed "A Seat at the Table", her third studio album (fourth overall) three days before her birthday, on June 21, 2016.

On September 27, 2016, Solange announced via her Twitter account: "I am overwhelmed with gratitude & excitement to share this work I've written and created, with you... #ASeatAtTheTable" on September 30, 2016.

In a statement, she described the new album as "a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing." She has reportedly been working on the album since 2013.

RecordingEdit

In the early days of recording sessions, Solange experimented with different sounds and ideas, which did not feature on the official track listing but did inform her on creating the album's identity, sound, early lyrics and concepts.

The initial conception of the album happened on Long Island, New York and in New Orleans, Louisiana where she began to collaborate on ideas with various artists.

Solange stated that during these stages it was just her "singing a melody" or "somebody playing her a synth or bass line that would turn into an hour-long track".

Following these sessions, Solange traveled to New Iberia in Louisiana along with the hour long tracks. She went there with her engineers and began creating the songs' actual structures, building the sounds, writing the lyrics and creating melodies.

Eventually, Solange took these tracks to Los Angeles to collaborate with Raphael Saadiq and Troy Johnson, stating: "When I look back at the beginning stages, I remember the powerful energy that set the tone, and that I'm so grateful followed us everywhere during the creation of this record."

Solange wrote "Cranes in the Sky" eight years prior to the album's release.

In 2008, producer and singer Raphael Saadiq handed Solange a CD with a few instrumentals on it. One consisted of just drums, strings and bass. That night Solange returned to her hotel and wrote "Cranes in the Sky". 

Eight years later when Solange had finished writing and creating the album in New Iberia, Louisiana she revisited "Cranes in the Sky".

Shortly after that, she called Raphael and asked if he would help to produce a few of the other songs of the album.

Rapper Master P worked on the majority of the album's interludes with Solange. Solange contacted Master P and asked if he would narrate some of the album's songs; the interludes were created from conversation regarding the world's issues.

CompositionEdit

The themes for "A Seat at the Table" include rage, despair and empowerment. It comprises funk, neo soul, psychedelic soul and contemporary R&B. The album opens with 90-second long track "Rise" released a year earlier.

"Weary" is a track filled with organs, guitar and bass and speaks about weariness and loneliness. "Borderline (An Ode to Self-Care)" has the same theme.

"Interlude: The Glory Is in You" has the theme of finding self-peace.

"Cranes in the Sky" is an upbeat track that speaks about attempts to alleviate the pain in alcohol, sex, music or even running away.

In the following interview, Solange's father and former manager Mathew Knowles speaks about his childhood filled with integration, segregation and racism, which left him "angry for years".

"Mad" (featuring Lil Wayne) is a track about indignation and anger.

"Don't You Wait" contains elements of funk, drums and bass and contains a statement from Solange's mother Tina Lawson.

"Don't Touch My Hair" comprises electronic and funk music and explores a common experience for African-American women. Following interlude speaks about worth and independence.

"F.U.B.U." is a nod to 90s fashion label For Us By Us. The following interlude has the message "Don't let anybody steal your magic".

"Don't Wish Me Well" contains elements of electronic and psychedelic soul music. "Pedestals" also has a theme of self-care.

"Scales" is a down-tempo track. Also, all of the lyrics were written alongside images in an accompanying digital art book, released on Solange's official website.

Chart PerformanceEdit

"A Seat at the Table" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, with album-equivalent units of 72,000, making it Solange's first number-one album.

The album was certified gold by the RIAA in January of 2019 for combined sales and album-equivalent units of over 500,000 in the United States.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"A Seat at the Table" was met with widespread critical acclaim.

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 89, based on 26 reviews.

Reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, Maura Johnston described it as a "fantastic-sounding LP that takes sonic cues from dusty soul sides while sounding as timely as a freshly sent tweet".

Financial Times critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney said like Beyoncé's "Lemonade" album, "A Seat at the Table explores themes of prejudice and blackness. But it does so in a different register, setting [Solange's] deft soprano to an updated version of psychedelic funk and soul."

Emily Mackay from The Guardian wrote: "[Solange has] long been engagingly outspoken on issues of race, and from the title down, A Seat at the Table is an intensely personal testament to black experience and culture; the likes of 'F.U.B.U.,' 'Mad,' 'Don't Touch My Hair' and interludes in which her parents talk about their encounters with racism go deep. Sonically, the album's take on modern psychedelic soul is languid, rich, lifted by airy, Minnie Riperton–esque trills on the gorgeous likes of 'Cranes in the Sky' or the darkly glimmering 'Don't Wish Me Well'; it's a world away from 2008's peppier, poppier Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams or 2012's indie-crossover-hit True EP. Guest spots from artists as diverse as Lil Wayne, Sampha, Tweet and Kelela only serve to amplify Solange's fascinating voice. It's safe to say that though big sis Beyoncé has run her close recently, she's once more the most [sic] intriguing Knowles sibling."

Gerrick D. Kennedy from Los Angeles Times wrote: "Those two worlds of black existence — at home and in the world at large — serves [sic] as the basis for Solange Knowles' exquisite, sumptuous new album, A Seat at the Table."

BET.com gave the album a positive review, stating: "Thankfully, Solange's A Seat at the Table is the journal we don't get the time to write, the conversations we don’t get to have and the exclamations we’re too tired to repeat."

Some reviewers expressed reservations. Andy Gill from The Independent credited Knowles for acknowledging "a world beyond romantic cliche", but concluded "there's little punch or pop charm to the album, which boasts a surfeit of luscious textures and feisty attitudes, but a shortfall of killer melodies."

Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic about the album after listening to it several times: "I assume its rep isn't just some mass delusion—that there's something there, and that it has to do with black female identity. But it left me unmoved, indeed untouched, and I'm not gonna lie about it."

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