Until recently, Solange enjoyed marginal relevance, despite the familial star power the Knowles typically command. At best, her image, by design or default, reflected a poor imitation of her sister’s, rarely inspiring meaningful reaction, in the form of praise or criticism. In fact, Solange seemed to lack the ability to spark curiosity – an unusual but undesirable achievement for a woman seeking stardom. Her music was good, but not particularly memorable, despite the fact that her second album Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams reached number nine on the Billboard Charts. As an outsider you could only assume that Matthew Knowles exhausted his prodigal development acumen on Beyonce, leaving little for the baby sister. To be fair, very few people could stand in the shadow cast by Beyonce, and understandably, Solange was eclipsed.
In the face of such bleak possibility, most people would tuck their tails and quietly fade. Apparently, Solange is not most people. Ironically, she has readily accepted that she cannot and should not try to be Beyonce, and the freedom of that truth has enabled her to blossom. Shaving her head in 2009 marked the beginning of cognizable change -–her hair symbolically and literally defied the expectations she never met, and admittedly never desired. Since that time, Solange has openly embraced the indie music scene, occasionally DJ’ing, even earning praise for her cover of the Dirty Projectors’ Stillness Is The Move. Similarly, Solange’s eclectic, but polished style engenders her status as a favorite among fashion gurus and pedestrian style mavens alike. Still, it is only the recent Release of her EP True, that unquestioningly solidifies Solange’s true star potential.
True, illustrated by a cover awash in a sea of rouge, is aptly named, as it is the audience’s authentic musical introduction to Solange.
The project is borne of an impressive collaborative relationship between Solange and Dev Hynes, of Blood Orange. Overall, the EP delivers a refreshing take on synthesized 80’s pop music. And like her pop predecessors, Solange makes it fun. The upbeat tracks belie the heartbreak and failed relationship angst about which she sings.
The opening track, and coincidental single, Losing You, sets the tone lyrically and sonically. The musical arrangement, like its singer, boasts an infectious unconventionality. True simultaneously relies on familiar soulful influences and experimental melodies. Solange’s cadence is unexpected, but perfect, finding the optimal tempo amidst the layers of instrumentation and sound.
The production provides the perfect platform for Solange’s voice, and reciprocally, her voice is the ideal accompaniment for the synthesizer and percussion-driven arrangements. Soft and pretty in her delivery, Solange never overwhelms, concentrating instead on consistency and balance. Undoubtedly, Solange is more than a singer. Correspondingly, the genius of True lies in Solange’s self-awareness as an artist.
Overall, True successfully legitimizes and distinguishes Solange musically. We all flounder on our path to self-actualization, and despite a few missteps, Solange has found her way. She is blazing a trail that rejects oppressive family comparisons, and if this EP heralds the new Knowles’ standard, I look forward to the next installment.