Solange, the funk singer who has long endured comparisons with superstar sister Beyonce, on Sunday earned her first number-one album with an innovative and introspective work she surprise-released.
“A Seat at the Table,” in which Solange examines both the role of African American women and her own despair, debuted at number one on the US Billboard album chart for the week through Thursday, tracking service Nielsen Music said.
“A Seat at the Table” is Solange’s first full-length album since 2008, and she said she spent years working on it, starting with extended sessions in which she would experiment to bases of sound effects.
The 30-year-old singer is believed to have a warm relationship with her older sister but has resented the constant comparisons, saying she is pursuing her own path.
Solange has infused her music with electronica, psychedelica and dark New Wave and has been a frequent performer at alternative rock-dominated festivals.
“A Seat at the Table” is interspersed with spoken word, including a snippet in which her father Matthew Knowles recalls his anger at being roughed up by police and the Ku Klux Klan as a child.
Solange segues into “Mad,” a track featuring rapper Lil Wayne that reflects on African Americans’ struggles when faced with accusations that they are too angry.
Solange explores her self-doubts on “Cranes in the Sky,” in which she explains how she turned to drinking, shopping and other vices in her quest to heal inner wounds.
The singer found a unique way to announce “A Seat at the Table” — she mailed a hardcover book with the lyrics to 86 fans picked off her website, releasing the album four days later on September 30.
Beyonce is also a master of surprise releases, with her latest blockbuster album “Lemonade” paired with a made-for-television movie.
“A Seat at the Table” sold 72,000 copies or the equivalent in downloads and streaming during the week, Nielsen Music said.
It edged out by just 1,000 copies a more anticipated release — Bon Iver’s “22, A Million.”
Best known for sorrowful folk rock, Bon Iver went in a more oblique and complicated direction with its latest album, which is filled with synthesized loops and symbolic messaging that reflects on the nature of the universe.
Bon Iver previewed the album — whose titles all cryptically involve numbers — in July at the Eaux Claires festival run by frontman Justin Vernon in his native Wisconsin.