Solange’s new record When I Get Home is a poignant narrative that explores the complexities of Black femininity. It’s also indicative of why she’s been kept at arm’s length by Pop’s inner circle.

Pop music is constantly in a state of confusion. It simultaneously seeks to “innovate” and find the next big act to parade on stage, while also being desperately yearning for the halcyon homage of yesteryear.

For example, in 2010 we saw major labels push both Skrillex’s subversive dubstep (the hottest new slang for an already existing genre) Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites in the same breathe as the electro-disco nostalgia of Robyn’s chart-topping single “Dancing on My Own.” Unlike other entertainment industries, the ebb and flow of Pop does not always follow the coherent trends of a market because to do so would concede the  notion that pop performers are grown in test tubes.

This leads us to the curious case of the Solange Knowles; whose new album was released to high acclaim, addresses social justice through poetry, and is both simultaneously on the cutting edge of pop while yearning for the bygone era of R&B supremacy. 

And yet, as of writing, the album’s most streamed song has six million hits. For comparison, the song “Butterfly Doors” off of Lil Pump’s latest album Harvard Dropout, excluding a certain track featuring Kanye West, is the most streamed song from the record at 45 million plays. These two LP’s were released a week apart.

In a way, it feels like the record labels aren’t even trying. Or maybe they just don’t know what to make of complex pop albums like When I Get Home. This would be all well and good if we neglected, exactly, who Solange’s familial relations are tied to. Solange is, in essence, a Pop duchess due to being in Queen Bey’s bloodline. And yet unlike, say, Michael and Janet Jackson, the Knowles sisters are hardly ever referenced in the same sentence. The closest we get to any reference of them together, that doesn’t involve a certain elevator incident, is when Solange made a brief cameo at Beyonce’s Coachella super show.

The Jackson metaphor is, in one sense, an apt description of these circumstances. Janet will always be in the shadow of her older brother despite her immense contributions to popular music. Michael Jackson, even with allegations of child molestation, will always be known as the King of Pop. Janet Jackson’s most noted musical moment is exposing her nipple at America’s most popular television tradition of all time. However, Janet, like her brother and Beyoncé, at least got to perform at the Super Bowl.

In 2017, Solange didn’t even get to headline the most popular music festival in Chicago, despite having an album that charted #1. She did headline Pitchfork, but this actually speaks to her place in the Pop zeitgeist. She is marketed as niche, particular, idiosyncratic. She is much too “high-brow” for the plebeian masses, or so the logic of her marginalization would follow.

However, When I Get Home essentially rejects this label. Solange does not sing or rap about bourgeois wealth or celebrity affairs. She reflects on growing working-class neighborhood in Houston. The sights and sounds and struggles are narrated from the perspective of various Black women and girls. Their hopes and aspirations drifting in and out of the cloudy, yet translucent production. “Sometimes I dream I go so high by for the ride by, Sometimes I feel I’m going down, down, Sometimes I feel I’m gonna die at times,” she croons over a Raphael Saadiq bass-line.

While certainly experimental, the album melts Southern Blues storytelling with jazzy synth melodies that are reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters; one of the most influential albums of the late 20th century. Sure, features on the album include indie stalwarts like Panda Bear and Earl Sweatshirt, but the most prominent appearances are made by rap mogul Gucci Mane and SoundCloud wunderkind Playboi Carti.

Despite its sonic tinkering, When I Get Home is certainly a Pop record to be reckoned with. It’s complex, but minimal. It’s socially conscious, and bleeds from the heart. It maintains a certain level of frustration, but manages its temperament with ease. It is a striking example of the contradictory nature of Pop music and an indictment of detractors who would call her an accessory to her bombastic lineage.