In my sister’s university library in Corpus Christi, Texas, I sat isolated behind a stack of books, crying as I lay on the dirty carpet with my sneakers propped up on the bookshelf and my headphones in, playing Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky.” Her music has always felt like an escape, and this particular moment culminated into release. For a good hour, I cried there –– I was reaching a new point in my life in which I would soon begin college without an idea of how I would pay for it. It was the pain of all my fears synthesizing.

The pressure of reality meeting the pressure of the divine feminine. That is a Solange song. That is me. 

My mamí taught me to be a girl on the run, like a blood rite. Though I only met her briefly in the flesh, I learned at a young age to pack my bags in a night and flee at a moment’s notice. Fleeing felt like liberation, and “Cranes in the Sky” sings to the absence of a destination that I found so iconic to my journey. In her feature on the “Exploder” podcast, the 34-year-old Houston native explains these lyrics and describes her fleeing experiences. She discusses not only hyperbolically traveling 70 states in the physical form, but also 70 states of mind — all in search of the feeling of home. She explains not being able to find a home, something we can all relate to and embrace. It is that realization when you hit a certain age of no return and suddenly home doesn’t feel like home anymore. That fleeting feeling of normalcy that you start to encounter as you become an adult, the result of leaving what you know for constant new beginnings — the forever pursuit of the peace that comes with home. She has a way of humanizing herself in her songs, and in this one she grounds herself into artfully exploring the complexities of being in a million different places at once, searching and longing for that comforting feeling of finding peace in one particular place. In “Cranes in the Sky,” she sings the lyric, “Don’t you cry, baby,” and when I first heard this, I was overcome with a sense of rational comfort –– meant to evoke feelings of community, the uplifting spirit of family or friends, all of which can guide you out of a depression that otherwise can become seemingly eternal. She explains in the podcast that this is something she learned from her mom –– that “on the third day (of a depression) you get your ass up and you ride.” Inspired by her mother, the lyrics are an endearing way of expressing the need to hold yourself together at times and move on from your strife. The beautiful harp playing in this song unites a sense of feminine regalness and peaceful serenity. Factors that all go into shaping the song into a beautiful, comforting tune in which you can find home. The entirety of Solange’s album A Seat at the Table, which includes “Cranes in the Sky,” is masterful with songs that praise Black excellence and power through artful ballads and interludes. They provide a tranquil sense of home found in the here and now.  

Solange makes my running feel like my own personal love story; like a short film on the dos and don’ts of self-love. Her harmonies and high notes singing to me, my grace and giving way to the wings on which I soar. My chosen background music to the soundtrack of coming of age. Her music video for “Binz” does something very similar for me –– the filmography feels genuine, personal; she dances playfully in her home to her lyrics. The video first caught my attention while I was in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The city had an interesting type of chaos to it. The beaches often had people covering every inch of the shore, and streets were lined with dancing adults and children alike, moving freely and effortlessly. You might even catch a soccer match happening down the narrow streets or walk by as firecrackers are popped at your feet. It was booming with culture and excitement, yet for me, it was a lot to take in. However, chaotic as it was, I still felt this sense of loneliness as I began to explore myself in this new place that grew to feel like a home away from home. I was building a connection to my spirituality and soul, and my internship allowed me to feel like my life was full of meaning and purpose. The work I did was with youth learning and unlearning the effects of different kinds of inequality and sustainable living. However, I was one of the only Americans in my cohort, which comes with a lot of weight. I was struggling to balance the demands of nonprofit work and leisure, all while maneuvering three languages and cultures. Not to mention I was over four thousand miles from home in a land foreign yet familiar, with its tropical energy reminding me of Cuba. It was a difficult and interesting time, and Binz took me somewhere new:

“I just wanna wake up to the suns and Saint Laurent

Hundred thousand dollars on the fronts and the blunts

I just wanna wake up on goodbye, only I.”

This song evokes a solitude that feels peaceful and easy; through it, I learned to find home in the self. In moments dancing along the beach coast or swimming at dusk or crying in the shower on long nights, I found home. But most of all this song taught me to have a happy outlook on life. It made living feel a little easier.

I regularly turn to countless other songs in Solange’s discography. I listen to “Mad” when my unvalidated anger needs to be met with compassionate melodies. Listening to a song can make one feel so heard, and to make one feel anything is an artful pursuit. “Don’t Wish Me Well”: a song I wish to sing to everyone who doubted me. It sings to the concept of sometimes taking opposing paths from those whom you once ran with — how the pain some people cause can become so unbearable, but you have to focus on your own personal growth and goals and let those guide you. “I’m going all the way / And now you’re almost out of view”: lyrics connoting a sense of severance. My brother and I talk about this, how in some ways we may be destined for a reality in opposition to that of the ones who may have once been role models. It can hurt to look back, but it teaches us a different kind of resilience. Solange says “I’ll leave on the lights for you,” meaning those people or things are still not forgotten. Another personal favorite of mine is “Scales,” which highlights the audience as superstars and drips with a harmonious embrace of reality, love and everything in between. One thing that resonates throughout all Solange’s lyrics, songs and albums is a connection to my roots that goes deep beyond our shared Southerness and into the presence of divinity through melodies and songs that teach me of my strength. For this I am grateful.

 

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