I didn’t want to write an album review for When I Get Home. A story would be far more meaningful than some poorly articulated critique.
Part 1: Things I Imagined
The desire to tell this story has sat with me for a while: about what it’s felt like to develop a relationship with Solange’s record over countless hours of replaying, and through the changing seasons of my personal life. More than anything this is just emotional.
For something released in 2019, it feels like an awfully long time since I first listened to this album. I would hope it’s the sickening number of times I’ve played it top to bottom, because if not, these have been the longest three years I have ever lived. It was my 17 year old self that first fell in love with this record, and I sit here today writing this fresh into my twenties. That ‘short’ timeline covers some of the most formative years of my life. COVID lockdowns on top of that made the time vanish like I never could have imagined—as if the time were a cocoon that had to birth some unrecognisable form of me on the other side. Saying that out loud, three years sound a whole lot longer.
I’ve written before about my struggles with creative block, and how it’s affected me on a personal level. It is truly crippling. My desire to produce meaningful content, and the urge to show it to the world, is constantly met with a mental brick wall. After a time, you start to feel inadequate. I couldn’t help thinking that something deeply wrong with me was the reason behind my stunted voice. Why can’t you just make stuff? Everyone around you is. Just be productive. Time is disappearing faster than you can control. You’re wasting it. The voice in my head told me I was powerless, and that I should give up even trying.
Part 2: Chasing The Divine
I cannot claim to relate to Solange personally, or to her lyrical content. I’m hardly meant to either. This Afrofuturist ode to Houston has been luxuriously coded, and it speaks directly to her kinfolk. Her declaration of Black Texan womanhood is not designed for curious outsiders to pick apart and critique, nor her sonic choices meant for mainstream radio playlists.
I do not mention this as some sort of side note or disclaimer. It is a necessary condition of the world I have been invited into, and central to its vision.
My ears heard a world that seemed recognisable but eerily distorted. It held the warmth of nostalgia in one hand, and the void of the unknown in the other. I saw a place where the plastic aliens and tinfoil robots might have lived among us—where the flying cars circled above our heads and we chose not to question their physical impossibility.
The songs themselves are essentially time capsules. By pure chance have I been graced with this melody, this breakdown, this chopped and screwed detail. If any one moment had not been captured as it happened, it would have been lost in a cloud of infinite, fleeting permutations. When I Get Home is a landscape whose existence is impossible—a mirror of our existence on this beautiful, impossible planet.
But if the songs could have ended up any number of ways, what makes this version of events (or any for that matter) special? It is the simple embracing of the unknown that creates a miracle such as this.
The ideas are never awkwardly forced into humdrum song structures. Sections of beauty are not truncated for the sake of it, nor are the shorter glimpses dragged out for fake emphasis. Every element owns its natural space and breathes within it. Each tells its own story of home.
Often a simple line will sit through an entire track, brewing gently before floating into realms I did not even know were available. Conversely, some of the most profound moments of the entire album last mere seconds. To me there could be no more beautiful analogy for being human.
Part 3: Do You Realise How Magnificent You Are?
I could not search for any meaning in this music without peering into my own soul. I had to allow myself to be vulnerable and see past my own bullshit to realise what Solange was saying;
she was asking me to come home.
Home is where peace, true peace, is sat patiently waiting for my return. Home tells me there is no due date by which I must be fully formed, and that my worth is not defined by my products. Home knows without asking. A life spent ‘keeping up’ has made me weary and out of sync with myself, but she smiles on as I begin relearning the frequencies of my body.
I am liberated, as she whispers lovingly in my ear that beauty is not always found in what is complete and perfect. No human being is wholly satisfied, everyone is dependent, and perfection is never the purpose. Perhaps that is what makes this album so natural and so genuine. I have nothing to offer but myself, and that alone is indescribably valuable.