By Kwase Lane, Staff Writer
Key tracks: “Stay Flo”, “Almeda”, “My Skin My Logo”
On When I Get Home, the listener finds Solange in a peculiar position. Her fourth studio album, Solange embarks on a new path, one more stripped back than she previously explored on her earlier project, A Seat at the Table. Many of the pieces on this album are carried by their stellar, dreamlike production, but the project occasionally shoots itself in the foot by leaving Solange to fend for herself on less-than-interesting beats. The incorporation of more jazz-like elements is a welcome change, but not if it comes at the cost of the energy and complexity of the song. However, it is that same simplicity that allows When I Get Home to be such a pleasant listen.
Read more: Album Review: Solange – A Seat At The Table
“Stay Flo” introduces some of the vitality that this album was lacking in its initial five tracks. It has a fun beat and is easy to move your body to, but it suffers from the monotony of repeated lines and a dull delivery by Solange on the majority of the piece. The problems that are found in “Stay Flo” are also present in the other upbeat songs on this project. More often than not, they feel like club bangers that got their legs cut off instead of a hazy, spaced-out piece of borderline art pop. Solange attempts numerous times to make these sounds meet in the middle, but whenever they meet, both halves are worse off because of it.
“Almeda” has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as “Stay Flo”, but it leans more into its trap influence, and it’s all the better for it. The echoing of her voice lends to the hollow sound that the rest of the album has without making the track feel empty or boring. Various beat switches and background ad-libs also serve to keep the listener hooked. Solange manages to strike an interesting balance between lyrical simplicity and the weight of her subject matter. In less than 10 words, she conveys a message of self-love and black pride. When Solange is able to infuse meaning into her repetitive chants it sounds like that’s all she needs to say, as opposed to being someone who can’t think of any more words.
“My Skin My Logo” is a weird track when compared to the other songs on When I Get Home. All of the other pieces have some semblance of a twinkle. In this song, that is abandoned entirely in favor of a more weighty, driven sound. Even though she sounds tired, Solange’s voice infuses the song with much-needed energy before she passes the reins to Gucci Mane. His delivery is strangely drunk-sounding and smooth when compared to that on his own discography. All the pieces wonderfully come together over a beat produced by Tyler, The Creator and Steve Lacy. Just after this heavy piece, Solange cleanses the listener’s palette with some breezy, powerful vocals before leading them into some of the lighter tracks on the album.
When I Get Home isn’t anything amazing lyrically or sonically. However, that isn’t to say it’s not worth a listen. It’s an entertaining album, but not if you’re focusing on the music. When played in the background, the more repetitive pieces are easy to listen to and undeniably catchy, but when you actively listen, her chants quickly become irritating. There are some really entertaining beats on this project, and when Solange shows her vocal chops, she quickly gets a grip of the listener’s heartstrings. If only she would let us hear what she can do more often instead of leaving listeners with lazy and borderline comatose sounding vocals.