On Friday, almost immediately after the release of Solange’s awaited (it’d been four hers since her last EP, True) album, A Seat at the Table, the LP became one of the most discussed things on Twitter. In a series of weeks where the murders of black men by the police continued to be uploaded and hashtagged on the Internet, A Seat at the Table seemed to instantaneously be serving the purpose it aimed to serve: art, not as diversion, but as a catalyst for black empowerment and pride — art that doesn’t silence or distract from the traumas American society has inflicted, but continues the conversation about them in a way that deals with them openly as a means to healing. “Empowerment” is a powerful word that’s all too often abused online for click bait-y inspiration and vacant think-piecing, but Solange’s A Seat at the Table became an fast example of the type of work — stinging, thought-provoking, complex — that word can sincerely be applied to. Over the weekend, she released two videos — for “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky” — both of which she directed with her husband, Alan Ferguson, and both of which continue the album’s effortless celebrations of blackness.
In an interview with W, Solange spoke with Tavi Gevinson about “Don’t Touch My Hair,” and the interlude that comes before it, which is a recording of her mother, Tina Knowles, talking:
She speaks before the song “Don’t Touch My Hair,” and I think it’s one of the most incredible moments of the album because she so eloquently breaks down black pride. And the fact that black pride does not mean anti-white. We had to do this out of necessity. We had to find that rhythm, that glory, given the circumstances and the cards that we were dealt. We have to be allowed to celebrate that.
She also gave a glimpse into how to create an album that speaks strongly to specific issues but is also wholly sonically fulfilling:
I knew I had these concepts that I wanted to communicate, but I was resistant to letting them lead the creative process. So the first layer of making the album, I just jammed in a room with some incredible musicians. It was a great energy in the room, because it was not so much like, ‘I’m going to make this album about this specific thing. It was just music-making. Then, I took that music and I went to New Iberia for that time, and I needed that insular time to break down what I was saying, what I was going to communicate and how I was going to do that. From there, I spent that summer writing lyrics. It was an interesting process because I’m a mother and I had to balance making an album and raising a preteen. And having my hands in all these different pots, so it was either all or nothing to me.
There’s a soft, minimal beauty to both of these videos, both of which allow landscape, oddly arresting monochromatic outfits, and choreography to do most of the work. Here’s the video for “Don’t Touch My Hair,” which, like the song, features Sampha:
And here’s “Cranes in the Sky”: