It’s no twist of fate that the opener on Solange’s sophomore album, “Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams” (Aug. 26, Music World/Geffen), is a track titled “God Given Name,” on which the 22-year-old artist reminds fans and skeptics alike that she’s her own woman.
“I’m not her and never will be/Two girls gone in different directions, striving towards the same galaxy/Let my star light shine on its own/No, I’m no sister, I’m just my God-given name,” Solange sings about being compared to her superstar sibling Beyoncé.
But she’s quick to set the record straight: This album isn’t any more about Beyoncé than it is “about your mom, auntie or cousin. I’m very good at saying that’s not what this project is about. The idea of me being compared to my sister has been addressed before. Fans don’t want to hear the same thing and I definitely don’t want to answer the same thing.”
“Solange wasn’t concerned with being perfect on this album,” manager/father Mathew Knowles told Billboard earlier this year. “Beyoncé’s already got pop and she’s perfect at it. Solange just wanted to sing from the heart. She wants her feelings and emotions to touch you. That’s why ‘God Given Name’ was purposely the first song—so she can share with you how different she is.”
With the help of producers the Neptunes, Jack Splash, Q-Tip and Mark Ronson, Solange created a sound on “Sol-Angel” that is less pop and more of a “marriage of ’60s and ’70s music with subtle hints of electronic,” unlike her pop-driven 2002 Music World/Columbia debut, “Solo Star.” That album reached No. 23 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and has sold 112,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“I knew what I wanted then, I just didn’t know how to execute it,” Solange says about her debut. “I was 15; I loved reggae, soul, alternative, R&B and hip-hop. And although I knew I had those tastes, the album became one with no identity. The songs were good independently, but as a collection it wasn’t a body of work.”
Topically, it’s Solange’s frank approach that drives the album. “Sol-Angel” is bursting with honest, real-life-driven tracks like breakup song “Valentine’s Day,” the Bilal-penned “Cosmic Journey” and the regretful “T.O.N.Y.,” about a one-night stand. The Neptunes-produced lead single “I Decided” is a lighthearted love song that has shifted 38,000 combined physical and digital copies in the United States. The second single will be “Sandcastle Disco,” whose clip was helmed by Solange in her directorial debut.
Solange’s self-assured mind-set is what initially attracted Geffen president Ron Fair to the blooming artist. “Solange is a complete, free-spirited, unique, fabulous, fascinating artist who can sing her ass off,” says Fair, who signed her last year. “She’s her own person who can succeed on her own terms. She’s gracious and she has a vision, and we’re backing it.”
Solange will continue to pen songs for her sister and former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams; Solange wrote Williams’ latest single, the Billboard Hot Dance Airplay chart-topping “We Break the Dawn,” and is hoping to further expand her reach into other genres.
“I really hope that I achieve what my definition of success is,” Solange says. “I’m going to continue to make music. I will definitely do things on my own terms and standards. I want to be at a level where this feels totally organic and it feels fun and enjoyable and it doesn’t feel like a job. If that’s the case, then I would’ve just gone to college and gotten me a nine-to-five.”