When I Get Home: A Lesson on Bodies, Queerness, and the Journey to Self
I saw things I imagined, and none of them prepared me for Solange’s latest album, When I Get Home. Undoubtedly a showcase of the many mountains, curves, lakes, and rivers of Blackness that flow through popular culture, there is an element of otherness embedded in her music that rails against the traditional way we hear, listen, and consume music and art. Doing nothing without intention, When I Get Home embodies a connection to queerness that reaches beyond the essence of sexual and intersectional bodies and pushes non-normative conceptions of queer culture.
When Solange first teased the album on the now revived BlackPlanet, she asked, “How much of ourselves do we leave at home and how much do we carry with us forever? ” It is this inquiry that sets the foundation for the album, a multifarious representation of home - past and present - that brings us closer to our bodies, histories, and explorations of self. For many queer folks, home is a contentious blend of joy and nostalgia mixed with memories of trauma and violence that inevitably impact our lives. Solange it seems is no stranger to this feeling, having wrestled with finding a sense of home in herself despite physical and emotional challenges she experienced over the last few years. She echoes the plight of many queer experiences of home - the anguish of leaving everything we once knew and held dear - things I imagine were rooted in expressions of gender, sexuality, and race - to become versions of ourselves only the child in us could recognize. There is a radicality to the way she connects with her body that seeks to build a home within it, a profound way of loving that can be manifested in the way we construct our sense of self in a world that values cisgender, Eurocentric beauty ideals.
Arguably the most compelling components of When I Get Home were its visuals. Both the photos and the accompanying film alternate between relics of late 1990s hip hop culture, nods to Black Cowboy history, and movements reminiscent of the 1970s disco era. The auditory composition of songs Solange employs references musical legends by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Alice Coltrane as inspirations for her work, but in these references, I also see notable queer icons such as Sylvester and Pepper Labeija, people that influenced fashion, sound, and language for an entire community of people. Again, the wavelength where Solange resides may be beyond what I will ever know. However in her music, it is nothing short of opulence in the way she connects disjointed artifacts of Blackness into a mosaic that is both an ode to tastemakers of Black and queer yesteryear and a prideful deviation from linear reiterations of Black culture.
At the end of the album, we return to a concept of queerness; not solely a definition that rests as a marker of sexuality, but a way of being that exists on the margins of acceptance that does not ask to be understood nor care to be consumed. Our sense of home may be imperfect constructions of community and our bodies may encounter pain as we discover the complexity of our identities. Regardless, the unrelenting commitment to self-actualization of truth and embodiment of power and liberation we hold as queer people of color still can’t be washed away. Not even in that Florida Water.
Listen to the full album on Amazon today.