Yes, yes, I know. It's blasphemous. The next time I walk into a black gay club, I'm probably going to be bound, gagged, and thrown in front of a speeding bus. But upon listening to Solange Knowles' new album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, I find myself quite impressed.
It's a 60s and 70s inspired concept album bleeding with Doo-Wop harmonies, and boogie-woogie piano chords. As the title suggests, Solange is heavily influenced by old Motown girl groups such as the Supremes and the Marvellettes. Her music isn't as slick or as catchy as any of their tunes, but it's just as fun.
Now don't get me wrong. Before you flood my inbox with hate mail (The last time I addressed Beyonce I got some messages that made me afraid to leave the house.), I'm well aware that Little Knowles lacks the vocal prowess of her older sister. Solange, trying to belt out a power ballad like "Listen," would probably sound like a chorus of stray cats trying to scream while being strangled. But the thing is, if Solange were to tackle the cheesy, faux-empowerment tune, I'd believe it a lot more.
The reason I think she's better than her sister is that with this album, she comes across as genuine. I see her as a real artist, someone who's actually looking to make something credible rather than get a cheap hit (though considering she wrote Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied," she's obviously capable of coming up with such things).
With a name like hers, she could have easily gone after Timbaland, Danja, and the like. With enough promotion and payola she could've scored herself at least a top 10 hit, and probably gone gold within a few months. But she actually had an artistic vision, and she followed through. Recruiting producers like the Freemasons, Cee-Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley, and Mark Ronson, she went after people who she thought would get her vision and they weren't easily convinced. At first she wasn't even able to get them to call her back. Cee-Lo Green for instance, she had to hunt him down at a party and give him some of her music to listen to. Once he did, he signed on immediately. Her artistic vision follows through to her music videos which she directs herself, and are full of color and creativity.
Is this album as brilliant as say Amy Winehouse's Back to Black? No. Solange hasn't experienced the heartache necessary to create something so authentic. Is it as varied, fun, and dramatic as Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics? Nada. But I dare to say Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams is leaps and bounds above both of Beyonce's bland pop albums both lyrically and musically. And I think if the cards were dealt differently, and Solange had been first born, the tables would be turned.
But alas, her status as the underdog, the anti-Beyonce if you will, may be part of her appeal. Unfortunately, considering neither of her first two singles have made an indenture on any radio format, it's likely her album will be in bargain bins very soon, along with Kelly Rowland's first two LPs.