Album review: Solange channels consistent sound, creates successful pop music with 'True'
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 22:01
Solange Knowles, best known by her first name alone, starts her new album “True” solidly with its lead single, “Losing You.” This song encompasses everything you need to know about Solange as her music stands now. She is no longer on a major label and has decided to pursue a more independent route in producing her music. “True” adequately testifies to Solange’s change in philosophy and with the help of artists such as Grimes, the Canadian musician whose real name is Claire Boucher, she has exacerbated our definition of pop music.
“True” includes songs that seem prepared for the radio, but does not exert itself in a manner that prepares it for car stereos. The reason for this is not in the songwriting itself — Solange’s words are mostly about love lost and heartbreak. It is the end product that makes this recording memorable, even if it is subdued. Producer Dev Hynes has created soft yet vibrant textures in his production, supporting Solange’s croons of longing and regret.
“Some Things Never Seem to F------ Work” has a peculiar punk-rock vibe. The distant chimes combined with Solange’s vulnerable vocals invokes something similar to — although significantly unhappier than — Blondie’s “Dreaming.” It is also a driving tune — the most upbeat after “Losing You” — with a sandbag, down-tempo rhythm that contributes to the dance “True” perpetuates.
The second half of “True” is of lower energy than its first half, but delivers nonetheless. “Locked in Closets” is a well-balanced song. Solange seems closer to the listener in this song and more approachable. Once again, Hynes produces a superb track that coincides with Solange’s lyrics. The following track, “Lovers in the Parking Lot,” achieves much of the same qualities of its predecessor.
“Don’t Let Me Down” observes the most intriguing instrumentation on the record. A popping synthesizer stands out over a slightly ticking sound of muted guitar. This is matched with a sort of vocal staccato hook that serves as the song’s theme.
“True” is consistent for much of the album, but tends to lull during its shortest song, “Looks Good With Trouble.” Clocking in at less than two minutes, it wanders too much to be memorable and feels like album filler. “Bad Girls (Verdine Version)” makes up for it, however, with a coordinated relationship between bass and synthesizer to create a masterfully minimalist pop song.
The songs that make up “True” fall outside the confines of modern pop music, and in that respect, Solange has succeeded in making an independent album. It is not necessarily completely unique, but it is completely Solange and helps to challenge what we understand as pop music today.