The first aspect that greets the listener on Solange Knowles’s fourth album, When I Get Home, is repetition. The opener “Things I Imagined” is a blunt reiteration over airy synthesizers and piano, beckoning “I saw things I imagined” some dozen times. For the rest of project repetition shows up on nearly every track, fitting into the lofty instrumental network whenever possible and only sparingly going off course. Apparently, it’s a Houston thing.
Solange’s last album, A Seat at the Table, grappled with issues of black identity and womanhood on tracks like “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair”, adding up to a strong showcasing of artistic merit. While Table had slight spots of aloofness and stasis, Home has unfortunately doubled down on these ideas. Much of the project feels stretched thin, with tracks like “Down With the Clique” and “Jerrod” running overly long while not adding much to the tracklist aside from an accentuation of flow. While many of the interludes act as creative vignettes, with “Can I Hold the Mic” being my favorite, they also feed into the content-lite end result. Its a near-forty minute listen that floats idly by, with Knowles rarely flexing her songwriting or vocal muscles nor trying to engage with the listener. She’s essentially taken a backseat to the production which, enlisting talents such as Pharrell, Standing on the Corner, and Panda Bear, is easily the strongest thing going for the project.
However there’s certainty still a lot to like about Home whether it be the star-studded instrumental palette or multi-layered song structures, with “Almeda” being the best song on the project by a wide margin. The joyous calling for “These are black-owned things, Black faith still can’t be washed away” amidst crisp percussion is actually exciting, slowly building into a Playboi Carti feature reminiscent of last year’s “Flatbed Freestyle”. I think the reason “Almeda” works so well is thanks to a continual ramping up and refusal to taper off unlike many other tracks on the project. “My Skin My Logo” largely follows suit with a sensual opening verse from Knowles and bar-trading with trap legend Gucci Mane (who sounds so out of place it actually works towards the albums mystic intention). “Stay Flo” is another early favorite despite its repetitiveness, packing in impressive vocal embellishments and a dreamy Metro Boomin instrumental.
While Solange is undoubtedly both a fantastic vocalist and artistic force, there’s just not many moments worth revisiting on this already short album. When I Come Home is a passive listening experience that strives for mood-setting rather than provocation, yet still attempts to challenge the listener with random inclusions of social commentary, repetition, and genre-blending.