|A Seat at the Table|
|Studio album by|
|Released||September 30, 2016|
|Recorded||2013 – June 21, 2016|
|Studio||New Iberia, Louisiana|
|Singles from A Seat at the Table|
A Seat at the Table is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Solange. It was released on September 30, 2016, by Saint Records and Columbia Records. While recording the album, Solange released an EP, titled True (2012) and launched her own record label named Saint Records. Writing for the album began as early as 2008, while the recording sessions took place from 2013 to June 2016. Solange enlisted a variety of collaborators including rappers Lil Wayne and Q-Tip; singer-songwriters The-Dream, BJ the Chicago Kid, Kelly Rowland and Tweet; and musicians Sampha, Kelela and David Longstreth.
A Seat at the Table was widely acclaimed by music critics and became Solange's first number-one album on the Billboard 200 in the United States, debuting with 46,000 copies sold (72,000 with additional album-equivalent units). The album's lead single, "Cranes in the Sky", won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance, becoming Solange's first Grammy nomination and win. In 2020, the album was ranked at 312 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
In 2009, in an interview with MTV, Solange revealed that she was determining the type of sound for the follow-up to Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. Solange 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, Solange 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, Solange 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 twenty-four songs for her third studio album; the songs were written to piano, with Solange structuring them on her own before finding the producers to finish them. In July 2015, Solange 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 thirtieth 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, Solange described the new album as "a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing." She had reportedly been working on the album since 2013.
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 and in New Orleans 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. Solange 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 A Seat at the Table 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. American 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.
The album's themes 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 1990s 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 lyrics were written alongside images in an accompanying digital art book, released on Solange's official website.
A Seat at the Table was released on September 30, 2016, for digital download and streaming through Solange' recording label Saint Records and distributed through Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment. Its physical release was November 18, 2016 on CD, and December 9, 2016 on LP.
The album was promoted with two music videos, directed by Solange and her husband Alan Ferguson, "Don't Touch My Hair" and "Cranes in the Sky" premiered on October 3, 2016. Solange performed both songs on Saturday Night Live on November 5, 2016. On December 8, Solange was interviewed by Helga Davis on the Q2 Podcast. She performed a medley of "Rise" and "Weary" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on December 15, 2016. On January 10, 2017, Solange was interviewed by her sister Beyoncé for Interview. On February 9, Solange' interview with Elle was released. She also performed at the 2017 Essence, Glastonbury, WayHome, Panorama, and Pitchfork festivals. She has also embarked on her "Orion's Rise" performance art tour, fusing music and art in performances at select theaters, including the art piece "Scales" in the city of Marfa, Texas, during Chinati Foundation Weekend.
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 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." Tom Hull observed "a big production with scores of writers, producers, and guests, but the sound hardly suggests such scale, and the songs are laced with a male commentary which while interesting in its own right could just as well belong to a completely different album."
|The A.V. Club||The A.V. Club's Top 50 Albums of 2016||2016||
|Chicago Tribune||Top Albums of 2016||
|Consequence of Sound||Top 50 Albums of 2016||
|The Independent||Best Albums of 2016||
|Mojo||The 50 Best Albums of 2016||
|NME||NME's Albums of the Year 2016||
|Noisey||The 100 Best Albums of the 2010s||
|Paste||The 50 Best Albums of 2016||
|Pitchfork||The 50 Best Albums of 2016||
|The Top 200 Best Albums of the 2010s||
|The Quietus||Albums of the Year 2016||
|Rolling Stone||50 Best Albums of 2016||
|500 Greatest Albums of All Time||2020||
|The Skinny||Top 50 Albums of 2016||2016||
|Spin||The 50 Best Albums of 2016||
|Stereogum||The 50 Best Albums of 2016||
|Time||The Top 10 Best Albums of 2016||
|Vibe||The 25 Best Albums of 2016||
|The Wire||Top 50 Releases of the Year||
A Seat at the Table debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, becoming her first album to reach the top of the chart, and also topped the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It debuted with 72,000 album-equivalent units, out of which 46,000 were pure album sales and 24,000 streaming and track equivalent units. As the album reached number one, Solange and Beyoncé became the first sisters, who are both solo artists, to achieve number one albums on the Billboard 200 in the same calendar year. On January 17, 2019, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for combined sales and album-equivalent units of over 500,000 units in the United States.
It also became her first album to chart in several countries. In United Kingdom, it peaked at number seventeen on UK Albums Chart, number two on UK R&B Albums Chart and number eight on UK Digital Albums, all published by the Official Charts Company (OCC). It also peaked at number sixty-six on Scottish Albums Chart, also published by OCC. It peaked at number twenty-one on Australian Albums Chart, published by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). In Belgium, it peaked at number fifty-three on Ultratop Flanders album chart and number eighty-three on Ultratop Wallonia album chart. It reached top forty in Norway and Sweden, peaking at numbers thirty-two and thirty-nine, respectively. It reached top thirty in New Zealand and Netherlands, peaking at numbers twenty-three and twenty-five, respectively. It also reached the top ten on the Canadian Albums Chart.
All tracks are written by Solange Knowles, except where noted.
|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) (Lil Wayne verse written by Dwayne Carter)||3:55|
|7.||"Don't You Wait"||4:05|
|8.||"Interlude: Tina Taught Me"||1:14|
|9.||"Don't Touch My Hair" (featuring Sampha) (Sampha hook written by Sampha Sisay)||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) (The Dream verse written by Terius Nash))||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|
|17.||"Interlude: No Limits"||0:39|
|18.||"Don't Wish Me Well"||4:15|
|20.||"Scales" (featuring Kelela)||3:39|
|21.||"Closing: The Chosen Ones"||0:42|
|Denmark (IFPI Danmark)||Gold||10,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||60,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
|Various||September 30, 2016|||
|November 18, 2016||CD|||
|December 9, 2016||LP|||