Solange attempts to wrest spotlight from sister
Until True, there has been little opportunity to appreciate Solange Knowles’ talent. It was her older sister Beyonce who emerged as the star and a pop culture icon when the golden age of Destiny’s Child ended. Since then, Solange’s undeniably strong voice has been hidden behind her sister’s fame.
True captures Solange’s more mature sound. Her previous albums, particularly Solo Act in 2007, were messily and heavily produced in a way that masked her voice rather than highlighted it. But with True — which Solange not only co-wrote, but also co-produced with alternative R&B artist and producer Devonte Hynes — her voice shines through.
Expertly produced, each song on the album is a treat. The collaboration of Hynes and Knowles is particularly notable in the opening track “Losing You.” Knowles addresses a lover in the very moment of “losing,” not before or after. Her lyrics are passionate and repetitive, set against a strangely upbeat percussion as if to highlight the anxiety of the inquiry, “Tell me the truth boy / Am I losing you for good?” The album’s narrative begins just like an ancient epic — in medias res, in the middle of conflict. It’s an exciting song for such a dreary subject.
The seven-track album progresses as a commentary of a breakup. Like a series of diary entries, each track tackles the subject differently, following an arc of psychological conflict: denial in “Losing You” and frustration in “Some Things Never Seem to F—-ing Work,” reflective in “Lovers in the Parking Lot” and regressive in “Looks Good With Trouble,” (“Hey little heartache / You’re looking kinda charming”).
True is shorter than Solange’s previous two albums, but its modest length lends value to each song. Its lack of a title track is equally compelling. The “true” response to heartbreak does not conclude on a particularly positive note but is instead unresolved — “The taxi came / I don’t know where I’m going.”
It is appropriate that Solange released True mere months before Destiny’s Child is expected to release a comeback album; Solange, who released True under Terrible Records (managed by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear), seems content with being under the radar. Her latest effort, however, may force her into a spotlight of her own.