Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Solange - Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams (Polydor)

Pop siblings haven’t had the greatest track record. The Osmonds, Hanson, Cleopatra, the Bedingfields, now the fucking Jonas Brothers. Thankfully, ready to buck the trend is Solange Knowles, kid sister of Beyonce and thus part of the dollar-printing mogulfest that is Knowles Inc. And yet, the most admirable thing about Solange – aside from her talent – is her open reluctance to carry any form of attachment to her incidental brand. Perhaps not the best opening paragraph on our part, then.

However, the music does the talking far greater than any press embargo on mentioning her family ties could. Her second solo album (first in the UK), the curiously-titled Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams, immediately proves Solange is the black sheep of the Knowles clan, albeit one with day-glo multicoloured highlights through its fleece and glittery fake eyelashes.

Mere seconds into the soapbox opener of God Given Name, it’s abundantly clear that Solange has more in common with Eminem or Ani DiFranco than she does with her sister. Okay, perhaps not quite, but there’s a display of cheek and social commentary that is virtually invisible within the R&B sphere, quickly cementing Solange as an artist with a brain between her ears.

On paper, the bright Sixties shuffle of Sandcastle Disco or the digi-Ronettes mantra Would’ve Been The One would suggest an album of entirely retro concepts, Solange herself injects enough quirk to underline Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams as a truly 21st Century entity, with just the right level of nods to legends past.

Unfortunately, the quirky Motown sensibilities don’t permeate every track. A handful – This Bird or Valentine’s Day, for example – clearly take their lead from watery 70s/80s soul, and while Solange’s bewitchery makes them a more appealing prospect than their description alone might imply, they fail to stand up next to the selection of tracks that boast originality and personality.

Even a straight comparison of the two takes on I Decided – both of which appear – is interesting. While the Freemasons’ mix has the verve and bounce to carry it on UK radio, it actually sounds somewhat empty and naff next to the classy subtleties of the Neptunes’ original.

Yet, on the whole, Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams is the benchmark of a formidable artist, very much worthy of her own pedestal. Solange proves her musicianship, inventiveness and all-round worth, and while the material may not tick every box, the abundance of integrity and chutzpah should ensure you’ll hear plenty more from her, whether you like it or not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah I just copped this album and I am checking it out now. Its ok so far, my favorite track is Tony.

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