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Photo: Elias  Tahan

For a  while  now,  Solange  Knowles  has  been  o ne  o f  those  singers  you  f eel  warmly  about.  She has  a  beautiful  voice,  impeccable  style,  and  a  perfect  instinct  for  what’s  cool.  Her  songs  have always  been  good—though  never  quite  great,  never  quite  hits.  Until  now.  Her  new  EP  True  is great.  A  collaboration  with  her  producer  Devonté  Hynes  (a  musician  in  his  own  right,  Hynes records  under  the  monikers  Lightspeed  Champion  and  Blood  Orange),  the  collection  of  seven songs,   out   today,   has   sent   ripples   across   the   music   world,   pleasing   fickle   bloggers   and established  critics  alike.  Among  fans,  the  music  video  for  the  EP’s  catchy  first  single  “Losing You”  has  been  a  sensation.   On  the  eve  of  the  EP’s  release,  we  spoke  on  the  phone  with  Knowles  as  she  walked  through  the airport,  o n  her  way  to  Los  Angeles  to  host  a  listening  session  f or  f riends.   Something  is  going  on  here.  Without  putting  words  in  your  mouth,  it  feels  a  bit like  you’ve  come  into  your  own.  What’s  new? I   really   kind   of   learned   on   this   record   to   write   songs   that   I   would   be   able   to   perform—that were   in   my   vocal   range,   like   second   nature.   A   lot   of   the   time   I   completely   free-­styled   the melodies  without  any  lyrical  ideas.  Then  I  would  go  back  and  try  to  make  sense  of  what  I  was feeling.  So  that’s  sort  o f  what  you  are  hearing  here,  that  second-­nature  tone.  

Devonté Hynes   produced   the   EP,   though   you’re   giving   him   billing   as   a collaborator. I  think  the  yin  and  yang  of  us  is  what  makes  it  so  great.  Dev  is  a  very  intuitive  artist.  When  he makes  music,  he  absolutely  makes  exactly  what  is  on  his  mind.  I  have  more  of  a  pop  sensibility where  I  want  to  create  an  infrastructure:  a  hook,  bridge,  all  that.   I’ve   heard   that   some   of   the   songs   came   from   stories   he   was   telling   you   about the   break-­up   he   had   recently   gone   through.   Since   you   were   in   a   happy   place   in your  own  life,  you  sort  of  drew  on  his—suffering—for  some  of  the  songs. Yeah,  Dev  shared  a  lot  of  stories.  It  was  sort  of  a  different  approach  for  me,  though  not  all  the songs  were  that  way.  “Locked  in  Closets”  came  from  a  conversation  we  had  about  when  I  was  a young  girl.  I  did  that  thing  where  I  hid  from  my  whole  family  for  several  hours.  [laughs]  So  I attached  myself  to  that  emotion  for  the  song—I  still  have  those  moments  where  I  feel  like  I’m hiding  from  the  world.  Another  song,  “Lovers  in  the  Parking  Lot,”  draws  on  this  time  when even   though   I   had   a   great   relationship,   I   took   a   break   from   it.   I   wanted   to   make   sure   I   was enjoying  my  youth  and  my  twenties.  So  the  song  is  sort  of  the  reality  of  what  that  break  felt like.   That  song  has  a  lot  of  fairly  traditional  R&B  qualities,  right?  While  the  album  is certainly  cohesive,  it  seems  like  you  do  go  off  on  some  sonic  tangents. Yeah,  “Lovers”  is  a  lot  more  R&B  vocally  and  in  terms  of  the  arrangements.  Whereas  a  song like  “Losing  You”—well,  it  has  that  sound  because  naturally  I  have  more  of  a  soulful  voice,  and there   are   definitely   arrangements   that   encompass   R&B—but   “Losing   You”   definitely   has   a distinctive   production   sound.   Dev   has   a   really   interesting   way   of   programming   sound   on synths  and  actually  plays  some  o f  them  with  his  guitar.   The  video  for  “Losing  You”  is  pretty  major. Thanks. You  shot  that  in  Cape  Town,  South  Africa,  right?  How  did  that  come  about? Something  reminded  me  of  Africa  in  the  percussion,  and  I  had  always  wanted  to  shoot  a  video there.  I  instantly  thought  of  the  Sapeurs  because  they’re  such  a  brilliant  subculture.  I  went  out and  purchased  Daniele   Tamagni’s   book   Gentlemen   Of   Bacongo,   and   he   helped   put   us   in touch   with   some   of   the   Congolese   Sapeurs.   But   the   Congo   was   almost   impossible   to   get equipment  to,  to  get  visas  for—all  of  that.  I  was  really  disappointed  because  I  felt  so  connected to  the  Sapeurs  and  I  wanted  to  showcase  them  in  an  authentic  way.  So  we  spoke  to  Daniele again,  and  he  said,  “Oh,  well,  there’s  actually  a  group  in  Cape  Town.”  I  happened  to  be  there anyway,  and  I  called  the  director,  Melina  Matsoukas,  and  told  her,  “Grab  your  camera.”   True   is   available   for   digital   download   on   November   27,   2012,   and   will   be   in   stores   in January  2013.

Artist of the Week: Solange  
Artist of the Week: Solange  

An article looking at Solange and her latest work.