Solange - SoL - Angel & the Hadley Street Dreams

Solange
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Enduring a teen pregnancy, a short-lived marriage, the death of a close friend and struggling for acceptance in one's chosen career path would frustrate anyone, so imagine the quandary of being Solange Piaget Knowles. In spite of her solid credentials---formal dance training, acting roles (Johnson Family Vacation and Bring It On: All or Nothing) and impressive songwriting skills that led to a recent ASCAP award---Solange's debut, 2003's Solo Star, betrayed her naiveté and lack of direction as an artist, which led many to dismiss her as unworthy of sharing the spotlight with older superstar sister Beyonce.  And while it's tempting to doubt the artistic validity of Solange's follow-up (Motown-meets-modern era), it would be unwise, because SoL-Angel..., while definitely different than what Beyonce offers, is just as catchy and compelling.

Enduring a teen pregnancy, a short-lived marriage, the death of a close friend and struggling for acceptance in one's chosen career path would frustrate anyone, so imagine the quandary of being Solange Piaget Knowles. In spite of her solid credentials---formal dance training, acting roles (Johnson Family Vacation and Bring It On: All or Nothing) and impressive songwriting skills that led to a recent ASCAP award---Solange's debut, 2003's Solo Star, betrayed her naiveté and lack of direction as an artist, which led many to dismiss her as unworthy of sharing the spotlight with older superstar sister Beyonce.  And while it's tempting to doubt the artistic validity of Solange's follow-up (Motown-meets-modern era), it would be unwise, because SoL-Angel..., while definitely different than what Beyonce offers, is just as catchy and compelling.

As many listeners have guessed from her first single, the chart-topping Marvelettes-inspired "I Decided," Solange weaves 60's and 70's-esque soul, narrative lyrics (most of which she co-wrote) with a modern edge, assisted by some of yesterday's and today's hottest collaborators (The Neptunes, Soulshock & Karlin, Cee-Lo and Lamont Dozier, to name a few).  The songs have a sparkling feel, and while her vocals aren't as polished or melismatic as Beyonce's, she's certainly more adventurous. The irresistible, disco-flavored "T.O.N.Y." adds buoyancy to the message of unrequited love: "...it almost been a week, oh no. My how time goes so fast, but I still refuse to call his a**."  "I Would've Been the One" could've been an out-take from a Supremes recording session with its doo-wop melody and hand-clap percussion: "We can't fix him if we tried," she coos of an unrepentant player who keeps "many in line." Equally danceable is "Sandastle Disco," where she admits vulnerability and desire in the same breath; "I'm a cool low Jane with a skip on my feet, I play tough as nails with my heart on my sleeve. Nothing but a sandcastle, baby don't blow me away." Beyonce's nowhere to be found here, but that doesn't mean she isn't addressed; in the opening number, "God-Given Name," after she commands that listeners to "leave your labels" elsewhere, she proclaims that "I'm not her and never will be...striving towards the same galaxy, let my star light shine on its own." That same wisdom and conviction fuels "I Told You So," its celestial groove belying its cynicism in a presently-happy relationship: "I know you think you love me, but love ain't never stopped nobody from creepin' around every once in awhile when things start to settle down."

Bottom line; can you bump SoL-Angel... in the ride or add it to the iPod? Yes you can; it does get soggy in a few places, but Solange's fearlessly eclectic approach guarantees that her ...Dreams of stardom, given the chance, are justified in becoming a reality.

By Melody Charles

 

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