Beyonce’s “I Am…Sasha Fierce” debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 482,000 copies in its first week, giving Knowles her third consecutive number one album. If you’re anything like me, and I suspect that you are, you’re bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the fact that Bey’s project pales in comparison to that of little sister Solange Knowles.
Though it’s sold just over 100,000 copies since its August 2008 release, Solange’s sophomore project is fast becoming the guilty indulgence of discriminating music lovers everywhere. It’s the album that you can’t believe you love and won’t admit you own. Whether they’ve downloaded the tracks or are simply settling to stream through imeem.com, audiences are secretly pumping Sol-Angel and dumping Sasha Fierce. Who would have thought?
Who could have predicted that second-fiddle Solange would be the mastermind behind one of this year’s most exciting albums? “Not I”, says LarryLy. Now, let’s be clear: no one anywhere is arguing that Solange actually sounds good. Indeed, her voice is often so painfully shrill or downright unrefined that the listener is ashamed to have given the album any serious consideration whatsoever. “Where Beyoncé wants her vocals perfect, Solange wants them raw,” Daddy Knowles defends. The only problem is that the singer too often transgresses the line between raw and reckless, and Matthew’s We-meant-to-do-that does nothing to make the inferior vocals any more sufferable.
But then there’s the vibe. The irresistible vibe. You see, this generation has proven time and time again that we want nothing more than to return to an idealized time in history (that we never actually knew). We’re a generation in search of a vibe. The commercial successes of the film Dreamgirls and of the train wreck Amy Winehouse have whet our appetite for repackaged Motown jams and damned if Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams isn’t eagerly filling the order.
But seriously folks, if you can get past Solange’s inferiority complex (see God Given Name) and her unnecessarily abrasive persona (see This Bird), Sol-Angel is quite a treat. The 60s/70s throwback theme provides the perfect backdrop for Solange to show off her knack for innovative vocal arrangements than even her megastar sister could stand to learn from.
In my estimation, the standout tracks are as follows:
Cosmic Journey, an extended psychedelic romp through time and space with neo-soul crooner Bilal on supporting vocals.
T.O.N.Y, a deliciously coded lament about a one-night stand.
Dancing In the Dark, a lively angst-ridden tune flaunting horn arrangements borrowed from your favorite sitcom theme songs of the 60s and 70s.
Would've Been the One, half confession, half admonition, this 50s-style love song is a toe-tapper not to be missed.
But don't take my word for it. Check it out and lemme know wha chu think.