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Inside the Lyrical Creativity of Solange Knowles’ Music

By Avia Bateman

Dear passengers, thank you for stopping by on the first ride that you will experience with me. This journey will include the creativity and ingenuity inspired by the one and only Solange Knowles.

Oftentimes when listening to music it evokes different emotions or inspiration, and Solange is a great example of that. Whether it is her ability to express art in different forms (i.e. music videos or photoshoots) or her execution of strength and confidence in being a black woman.

As a creative writer and psychology major, I wanted to blend the two worlds. It has always interested me how music can allow individuals to exude different emotions based solely on the lyrics, beats and ever flowing rhythms created by artists.

Psychology of Music: Black Empowerment , Individual Awareness and Self-Expression

Psychology of Music: Black empowerment

Don’t Touch My Hair (feat. Sampha)

Listening to this song is very nostalgic for me.

Growing up, I was surrounded by individuals from different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, but very few looked like me. This caused them to be “intrigued” by my hair. Oftentimes they would ask, “Can I touch your hair?”, and then I

would actually let them because I didn’t know any better. This went on for the majority of my life but ever since I went to college, I realized that this was not okay. I started to stand up for myself if people asked me.

This song is powerful in acknowledging what an individuals boundaries are when it comes to a level of respect. For example, in reflecting over times where people touched my hair, I realized that it made me feel like I was a pet, just because my hair is different.

I think that this song is important for the black community in both being proud of our natural hair as well as sticking up for themselves when they feel they are being treated differently for who they are.

F.U.B.U. (feat. The Dream & BJ The Chicago Kid)

In looking at this song, I feel a sense of pride in being black. F.U.B.U. stands for For Us

By Us. This concept could be understood as the creations and different avenues that are molded by the black community. So things like black businesses for example, shows that we own or can create things that were made by us and for us.

Another example that this reminds of is creating products that cater to black people, such as a satin lined hoodie that protects our hair. In addition, this song evokes this sense of reclaiming what might have been lost by our ancestors. When we are our creators, developers and innovators, it evokes this sense of pride and progress.

That is why below I have attached a picture of a shirt I made in high school. ii was inspired by my hair and how proud I was to be able to wear my Afro. However, I realized that not a lot of black girls around me weren't confident in that. Which is why I wanted to create a brand or logo that represents black beauty and specifically focuses on our unique hair.


The way that Solange begins this song, makes it feel like she is calling out a chant. One that is supposed to inspire future generations to get up and feel empowered. Although she goes throughout the entire song repeating the same lines, it increasingly gets louder with the instruments that play behind her voice. It seems as though her intentions behind the song is to then embed the phrases in the audience's mind. Other interpretations have suggested that this song is related to staying true to oneself and not letting the distractions of the world impede that. This song can be related to black empowerment and self expression. Both have a journey of finding oneself and being proud of who you are. At times there will be times where you fail, but it is when you get back up when it is most powerful and influential to one's growth.

In looking at some articles, there is a common theme to put an explanation on this curiosity.

Psychology of music: Individual Empowerment & Emotional Expression

My Perspective

Mad (feat.Lil Wayne)

Prior to listening to this song, and only looking at the title, one may assume that it is just a song about being mad or angry at the world for example. However, the way that Solange is able to examine feelings of anger or frustration in a song can be comforting for someone that is not self-aware about their emotions or is having a difficult time in expressing them.

In starting the song, she mentions that, “You got the right to be mad, But when you carry it alone, you find it only getting in the way." In this she acknowledges that it's okay to express frustrations, but it is not okay to just let them consume you.

Throughout the rest of the song she proceeds to ask a series of questions, such as "Why you can't just face it?" (Be mad, be mad, be mad) "Why you always gotta be so mad?" (Be mad, be mad, be mad)". I think that her lyrics in this song are amazing because she is able to directly influence the audience. When listening to this song it honestly feels like a therapy session, she is asking her audience to look inward and try to understand why they are feeling the way they feel. At least when I listened to it, I paused the song and asked myself such questions.

Overall, her ability to develop lyrics that allow individuals to self-reflect is inspiring and important. Many times people do not recognize how their mood or emotions impact the people around them or their perceptions of the world. This is just one of the many examples of how music and Psychology can go hand in hand.

Cranes in the Sky

Similar to the song Mad, Cranes in the Sky is intended for her listeners . The song begins by talking about how she is trying to avoid her pain throughout life. She mentions all of the things that she does, whether it is buying a dress or working or traveling around the world, she still doesn’t feel satisfied or content with her life. With that, I think everyone can relate to this song in different ways.

A lot of times we may feel that our environment, people or material items will bring life satisfaction or peace, but it's instead the temple within us. You can be with anyone or anywhere and still feel alone or unsatisfied. But once we take care of ourselves physically, mentally and physiologically, it may bring more of our life satisfactions into fruition.

In reflecting upon Cranes in the Sky resemble a metaphor almost, as visualizing this, you would not think of “peace and refuge”. Instead it is symbolic of how trapped one feels in their own body, as she sings, "Yeah, it's like cranes in the sky. Sometimes I don't wanna feel those metal clouds." In addition, she also sings about the times she went to her partner to talk about her feelings but still felt helpless. She then transitions so singing, "but it’s like cranes in the sky" again. This shows that even though you want to work on all of these or accomplish these goals, sometimes you don’t want to. And that maybe existing alone , is enough for the moment, and being present in that.

Other Perspectives

Oftentimes when listening to music it evokes different emotions or inspiration, and Solange is a great example of that. Whether it is her ability to express art in different forms (i.e. music videos or photoshoots) or her execution of strength and confidence in being a black woman.

As a creative writer and psychology major, I wanted to blend the two worlds. It has always interested me how music can allow individuals to exude different emotions based solely on the lyrics, beats and ever flowing rhythms created by artists.

There are different perceptions of Solange’s music as it pertains to how individuals interpret it. With that, I wanted to look at how to black women I know feel about her music. I asked them both the following questions, “What is your favorite song by Solange?” and “What do you feel or think when you listen to her music?”

My good friend Sierra, mentioned her favorite song is Cranes in the Sky. This song made her feel empowered in different ways. Whether it was her desire to want to tap into her feminine energy more or help her feel less alone at times when she feels low. This is in part to the execution of her songs. The chorus and her harmonies are like a two for one special that delivers something intensely beautiful.
Next, I asked my sister how she felt with the two questions before. She mentioned that her favorite song by Solange is Dreams. Her perspective on her music in general was more so related to the overall vibe and ambiance of her music. One comment would be that Solange exudes Black spirituality similar to that of Erykah Badu. Overall, she feels connected to her black roots and the soothingness of her voice adds to the familiar feeling.

Making the Music Process Sound Effortless

Overall, the way that Solange is able to create, exude and evoke different feelings, emotions and concepts just through music says a lot about her lyrical process. In looking at different videos and articles of her craft, I noticed a consistency of where she gets her inspiration from. It is her roots. Not just the roots of her beautiful, natural hair, but the roots that grounded her to be who she is today. She spoke a lot about the black women she grew up around were centered around her creative process. Whether it was her mother, aunts, or the everyday women in black hair salons. Through her recent albums, she made a point to pay homage to such influential figures as she grew up.

In addition, her sole purpose in creating music specifically related to the black community, is to reclaim the stories that may have been lost by their ancestors. This then allows for black people, like me, to be able to feel a sense of connection through her music, for example. I feel that many black people in general can relate to this as our childhood is a foundation for how we develop as human beings in this world. In essence, Solange is a voice to those that do not understand their struggles, in particular, growing up black. She is able to connect to the audience and make them feel not alone.

Also, in watching a short documentary on YouTube called Beginning Stages-A look into Solange’s songwriting process and Jam Sessions that shaped ASAAT, she goes through the process of making the A Seat at the Table album over the course of a year or so. In the video she speaks about 4 parts (organization of chords) and bridge (connects two parts of a song) with I believe her recording engineer. She is a part of the music creation as she produces notes on the piano as well as her angelic voice. Sometimes lyrics were rewritten, same goes for beats, but it was all about the creative process. What I noticed was the time spent on the project, hearing the birds chirp in the morning or the crickets whistling at night, there she was microphone in hand vibin' with other creatives. What it accounts for is that there are multiple moving parts in order to create a successful album, and using the creative intelligence of others is one of them.

I think what is most difficult about her process is putting together beats, chords, lyrics, harmonies etc., that exude the type of emotions and expressivity I mentioned earlier. Being able to connect to others outside of oneself I think is difficult, but admirable. With that, what I find most important is that in order to create these albums she had to find herself, a journey that many of us can probably relate to. While this conclude our ride for this week, Solange's journey does not as it will continue on for generations to come. Therefore, in commemorating the beauty black women in showing pictures of me and those close to me (with the addition of Solange).


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