Solange’s latest album is one which merges personal empowerment and cultural introspection. The ninth track on Solange’s third studio album, A Seat at the Table, ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ is full of purpose; both political and entertaining. This slow-burning R&B track on the surface presents a cool, inquiring Solange who gently asks her listeners to accept and relish in her blackness just as it is. However, one should not mistake the mellow bass line and soulful vibes for just a pretty song – the lyrics are charged with a message that is important and strong. Delivered in Solange’s wonderful soprano voice and accompanying vocals by the throaty, intriguingly voiced Sampha, the two artists paint a picture of black pride in all its glory; a power uninhibited by white commentary or commoditisation.
The composition of the track lends itself much utility. You can simply appreciate the calm rhythms spiced with the atmospheric trilling of bells; the interjection of jazzy saxophone interludes also makes it ideal for meandering around quiet ideas. At a glance, one could contemplate the lyrics, charged with not just political ideas but Solange’s own convictions and desires, as she deemed it “a project on identity and empowerment.” In production since 2013, Solange has clearly toiled hard with her team which includes writers such as to create phrases that merge the personal and the political. In ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ alone, such lines include: “Don’t touch my crown,” and “…But this here is mine…You know this hair is my shit.” Solange’s manages to grapple with the objectification and lack of agency that have been the black women’s reality for centuries, whilst using it as a springboard as an unapologetic proclamation of her personal being. What’s interesting is that these words carry a lot of potential emotion, passion, perhaps even, understandably, hostility. Yet Solange has made the stylistic choice to almost half-whisper these words, only speaking in full voice during the hooks and choruses. I think this important to note that instead of returning into the micro-aggression polled against her and her people, she does the opposite: gently whispering to us to reflect, to change, to consider what she is saying through solidarity.
The music video lends itself to a myriad of creative movement by people dressed in retro clothing. They are all dark skinned: Solange has pulled out all the stops when giving the black community the visibility they deserve. The choreography is contemporary and jazzy in nature, but I think most of all, it’s symbolic and comes from Solange’s core. It’s about black people being black in ways that are bold, unadulterated, and not the purpose of white consumption. We also a variety of backgrounds, perhaps representational of the many journeys Solange and her community have undergone to get the point where they can get this message across: now we just need to listen.
A Seat At The Table was released on September 30th 2016 via Colombia Records. For more on this euphoric work, see Solange’s personal essay concerning this album and more on its themes: http://saintheron.com/featured/and-do-you-belong-i-do/