Review: Solange’s “Losing You”

Solange "Losing You"

In 2008, Solange released her masterful and criminally underrated album, Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams. On the record’s opening track, “God Given Name,” the songstress proclaimed that she was “no soul girl equipped with no afro,” immediately establishing herself as an artist who refused to play by rules other than her own.

A love letter to the days of Motown that was steeped in equal parts disco and neo-soul, Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams solidified Solange’s status as one of the most refreshingly unique talents to emerge from this millennium’s R&B offerings. All of which made the blogosphere erupt in surprise when, following the record’s release, her name was suddenly widely associated with the indie rock scene instead.

It all began in the summer of 2009 when Jay-Z showed up at Grizzly Bear’s Williamsburg Waterfront show. And it wasn’t just the audience members who were stunned to see the hip-hop legend attending the indie rock quartet’s concert.

“We were shocked,” Grizzly Bear member Chris Taylor later revealed. “It came about through Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s younger sister, who’s a total sweetheart and a friend of the band’s.”

That same year, Solange released a free, R&B-fortified cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” via Pitchfork. Her former record label, Universal, quickly had the website remove the track, but it was up long enough to get noticed by and receive stamps of approval from not just Dirty Projectors, but also musicians like Chairlift and Bjork and fashion designer Jeremy Scott.

Soon thereafter, Solange provided guest vocals for “Sex Karma,” a funky and irresistible track off indie rockers Of Montreal’s tenth album, False Priest. With this collaboration, it seemed as though the singer’s transformation from contemporary Motown princess to indie darling was nearly complete.

But what would this new title mean for the musical direction of Solange’s next record? Would she return to the vintage-tinged R&B of her last album? Or would she capitalize on her newfound Brooklyn cred and come out with a record that was a whole new sound for her?

The answer is a little bit of both. Released on October 2nd via Trouble Records (Chris Taylor’s label), “Losing You” is Solange’s first solo single in four years and paves the way for her triumphant return to the scene.

Produced and co-written by Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, “Losing You” marries the soulfulness of Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams with the edgier indie material the singer has been experimenting with of late. The result is an insanely catchy track that proves Solange has finally found the sound she’s been looking for.

Accompanied by a music video gorgeously shot in South Africa, “Losing You” is a brooding alt-pop song that finds Solange coming to terms with the end of a relationship.

“I gave you everything and now there’s nothing left of me,” she croons over the song’s retro hip-house beat. “I’m not the one that you should be making your enemy. Tell me the truth boy, am I losing you for good?”

While sprinkled with ‘80s dance flavors, “Losing You” is a far cry from the EDM-crazed sound of the vast majority of today’s Top 40 radio. Instead, its smart and often subtle use of synths perfectly complement Solange’s airy vocals in a way that calls to mind Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing” (which was, not surprisingly, also produced by Hynes).

In the short time since its release, “Losing You” has already garnered a massive amount of critical acclaim. “Knowles and Hynes crafted the sort of snappy, relaxed groove that sounds as if it had been unearthed from a dusty ’80s jukebox,” wrote The Los Angeles Times in their review of the track. “The single is retro without reverting back to the Motown influences of her last record.”

And according to Spin’s Control Voltage blog, the song is “remarkable for what it suggests about the direction of pop music right now; it feels like one of those moments when something lurking just below the surface of the zeitgeist breaks through in a big way.” Bravo indeed, Ms. Knowles.

Available now on iTunes, the single of “Losing You” also features the B-side, “Sleeping In The Park.” This song is another collaboration with Of Montreal’s front man, Kevin Barnes (who also recently recorded a series of demos with Solange). An upbeat track that winks at the singer’s rock inclinations, “Sleeping In The Park” is an excellent counterpart to “Losing You,” further enhancing the blending of the inspirations from which Solange is drawing her gratifyingly original and evolved sound.

While specific details about Solange’s upcoming full-length album have yet to surface, don’t be surprised if the release of “Losing You” propels the singer smack into the middle of the mainstream music consumer’s radar.

Welcome to the big leagues, Solange. You’re up.

Solange "Losing You"

Alex has been writing for PopBytes since 2011. As the Theater Editor, he focuses on all aspects of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theater, and beyond. Alex lives in Western Massachusetts and can be found on Twitter at @AlexKNagorski.