In a recent interview with Beyoncé in Interview Magazine, Solange spoke with her sister about pretty much everything — and that everything happened to include the meaning of her A Seat at the Table song, “Cranes in the Sky.” Now, she’s appeared on Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder podcast, and analyzed/historicized that song in even greater depth.
In the interview with Beyoncé, she really took the chance (likely given the intimacy of the talk itself) discuss where the song came from personally, but here, she also gets into the very technical details, breaking down what makes it, as you’ve probably registered, so achingly listenable.
Solange describes how it was borne of an instrumental sketch that Raphael Saadiq gave her in 2008, and how when she heard it, she “immediately had this really strong reaction,” and right away went to her hotel room to write the lyrics and melody. As in her Beyoncé interview, she similarly speaks to the meaning of the title lyric, and how it literally came from the excesses of cranes in the sky in Miami during a development boom. “You could not look at a street without dozens and dozens of them. It was very literal — Miami being this refuge for me… the heaviness and weightiness and eyesore-ness of seeing these cranes be so disruptive in this space I found peace in affected me as well.”
“A lot of times, if I write a line, I think to myself, ‘could I have said that better,'” she explains. “And on this song, I really did not have those thoughts. It was literally things I had done to try to fill this void.” She explains that looking back, she’s been happy to find she’s no longer that person, though she says, “I found myself feeling those things more than ever within the last couple of years again, but in a totally different way. Whereas at first they related to heartache and feeling unclear, confused, unworthy…then they actually started to become a narrative of feeling these things through the backdrop of the state of how black women are being treated in this country. So much of that song to me also became a song for community, and so many things specifically that I know black girls and black women are working through. It became a different story.”
Listen to the podcast: