Beyoncé and Solange Are Creating the Soundtrack For America’s New Civil Rights Movement

You’re going to hear the message from these powerful Black voices one way or another.

By Jasmine Grant

Nina Simone once posed the question, “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” It’s strange to think that with Black Americans being brutalized by the police at such an alarming rate, only a handful of Black artists are using their music as an outlet for change. Who better than Beyoncé and Solange Knowles to carry the torch from the greats like Nina Simone and Mavis Staples and use Black beauty, Black rights and most importantly, Black survival as the basis for their art.

The theme of Solange’s highly-praised third studio album A Seat At The Table, executive produced by Solange and Raphael Saadiq, bears striking resemblances to Lemonadethe visually-out-of-this world and extremely woke album/film released by big sister Beyoncé earlier this year. Comparisons between the Knowles sisters don’t happen often. They’re in two completely different lanes in everything from their image, musical styles and social media presence (Solange is very transparent on social media while Bey likes to maintain her mystery). But one common thread we see is the pride they display in their Blackness. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that two people who grew up in the same household with the same parents who are very, very aware – just like everyone else is – of all the inequalities and the pain and the suffering of our people right now, would create art that reflects that,” Solange told The Fader the comparisons between their projects.

In Beyoncé’s visual project Lemonade, she acts as the Black woman’s mirror, reflecting familiar narratives like abandonment, the absence of the Black father figure, sacrifice, disappointment, self-worth and family curses begging to be broken. Songs like “Formation,” “Hold Up”, and “Sandcastles” take us on a journey through the cycle of denial, anger and eventually, healing. Solange layers onto this with her 21-track album that looks outward. She describes it as a “confessional autobiography and meditation on being Black in America.” Here, we see Solange create a forum for the anger that bubbles over when Black people suffer from existing in White spaces. A “For Us By Us” place of refuge with which to tell ourselves…we have a right to be angry. And for once, we are human.

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