The bar was set high for Solange Knowles’ follow up to the poetic and magnificent A Seat at the Table. She only carries a few tricks from that playbook for her new album When I Get Home, notably the slow-paced R&B and her driving theme of black excellence. Only it’s considerably more small-scale versus the enrichment of repeated playthroughs from her prior opus. A massive guest list does little to aid the narrative, which references everything from riches to her hometown of Houston. Most of these features are brief, just a few lines to finish their quick and often redundant appearances.
The soft, slow-paced neo-funk sounds stick the landing here and there. The Metro Boomin-backed “Stay Flo” is a gentle bop, as is the brief “Binz”. Percussion taps backbone highlight “Almeda”, a guest-loaded entry where The-Dream and Playboi Carti join Solange simply listing a series of “black-owned things”, but leave it to her to craft a terrific black pride anthem. However, The-Dream’s role here is short and unnecessary, one of the many features that never grab the spotlight and only seem added for the sake of throwing another big name on the LP.
The wisdom behind Solange’s verses can’t be said for much more of the LP. There are multiple dry spots scattered around the playlist, like the opening “Things I Imagined” or “Beltway”, repetitive moments that don’t add any relevant ingredients to Solange’s concoction. Not much of the songs are particularly hard-hitting or emotional. Instead there’s bland cuts like “Dreams”, which preaches nothing beyond plainly stating dreams will come true if you persevere: nowhere near the empowering ballads on her previous works.
The production is rather scarce, and doesn’t hold any definitive mixes. A Seat at the Table got away with that because Solange’s words were so stellar on the lyric-driven LP, but her words don’t shine as much on When I Get Home.
When I Get Home is even less on the nose than its predecessor, and the themes go all over the place in the 39-minute runtime. She starts off singing about selling out and fame with “Down with the Clique” and “Way to the Show”, but the album’s vague lyricism doesn’t help: the former is a mostly repetitive song with two quick verses, and Knowles just spends the latter mostly talking about luxuries like candy paint.
The soothing vocals and lo-fi sound will be enough to keep die-hards Solange fans coming back, but the release tries too hard to match the lyrical genius Knowles is known for. The meager words could challenge listeners to open their minds and perhaps paint a Houston tale for their ears, but it mostly comes off as an incomplete and disappointing chapter in the star’s discography.
SCAD Radio gives it a 7/10.