Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
Now, join us as we dust off the ‘Sandcastle Disco’-housing gem ‘Sol-angel and the Hadley St. Dreams’ – the sophomore album from Solange Knowles:
2003 saw the Knowles girls – Beyonce and Solange – both release their respective debut albums. To the benefit of both (in severely varying degrees), the unprecedented success of R&B group Destiny’s Child acted as a sturdy launching pad for their solo endeavors. But, before the former would rocket into the stratosphere with her critically and commercially acclaimed effort, ‘Dangerously In Love,’ the latter kicked off the year with her effort ‘Solo Star.’
Comprised of a number of cookie-cutter cuts (some written by the then-14 year old), ‘Star’ faded almost as quickly as it had risen. Add to this minimal promotion, the increased popularity of her older sister, and (eventually) a controversy around her early pregnancy, the youngest of the Knowles clan was dealt a hand of discouraging blows that essentially hushed her musical efforts for nearly half a decade.
That silence met its halt in 2008 when she re-emerged with ‘Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams.’
Recorded between 2005 and 2008, the album tapped into the singer’s love of vintage music. Drawing inspiration from a well of Motown acts during its conception, the project was birthed as the antithesis of what was radio-friendly at the time (see then-rising genre EDM and bass heavy R&B). As the visual for its first single ‘I Decided’ would also illustrate, Solange’s deviation from “what was expected” was not limited to her sonic offerings…
Sporting a toned physique, darker hair, and confidence to boot, ‘I Decided’ drove the point home: the “new and improved” Solange had arrived. Wielding a visually impressive, “concept-heavy” clip that revisited memorable eras of black music history (see: Motown sound, disco, etc.), the video also aimed to assert the singer’s distance from her mega-pop star older sibling.
On the critical front the move proved itself lucrative. Garnering thumbs up from many-a-critic for its riskiness, ‘I Decided’ was lauded for its balance of substance and style – managing to dodge the “gimmicky” approach and offer at least some level of authenticity.
Sadly, the sentiment was not echoed on the commercial front. Peaking at #44 on the Billboard R&B charts, the song missed the Hot 100 all together.
Undeterred, the burgeoning diva pressed forward with its follow-up ‘Sandcastle Disco.’ Its accompanying visual, which marked her directorial debut, would press forward the agendas set forth by its predecessor (see: distance from previous offerings, etc).
Though quickly becoming a fan favorite, even skyrocketing to the #1 spot on Dance charts (like ‘Decided’), the tune would suffer the same fate as its forerunner – missing the Hot 100 all together.
On the Billboard 200 side of the musical pond, ‘Dreams’ made more of a splash. Debuting to the tune of 46,000 sold its first week, the album successfully managed top 10 placement (peaking at #9). Yet, while her tenancy was brief, the project did manage to make enough noise to pique the interest of critics and new fans – many of whom praised the singer’s vocal and artistic maturity:
‘T.O.N.Y.’ live (see: 3:12)
‘Hadley St. Dreams’ is unquestionably one of those albums you don’t truly appreciate until you are years removed from the era. Listening today makes it hard for us to see how and why so many of those tunes were slept on. From her stage presence to her willingness to go against the grain, there are so many aspects of her artistry that should be applauded.
Unfortunately, to this day, the album still does not know its due acclaim. Alas, that won’t stop us from giving it a just ode in the form of this ‘TGJ Replay.’ And, while we excuse ourselves to go press play on our jam ‘Ode To Marvin,’ you tell us: