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Solange Knowles: Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

Solange Knowles: Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

Release Date:2008

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 9/24/2008

If there's one thing Solange Knowles hopes listeners take away from Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, it's this: She isn't her older, hitched-to-Jay-Z sister. Showbiz hopefuls making a concerted effort to differentiate themselves from siblings/relatives who struck celebrity gold first isn't anything new--e.g., Ashlee Simpson's badass rock-pop profile, which is actually slowly eclipsing Jessica's country dim-bulb blondie--but Beyoncé's multimedia juggernaut casts one hell of a shadow, a fact Knowles seems all too aware of.

Instead of grounding Hadley in the same sonic present as Dangerously in Love or B'Day, she bypasses now sounds for past and future ones. And while Beyoncé's primary persona is fiercely independent, domineering, and largely overconfident, her little sister presents as fragile, unsure, and in need of male protection. Take the Soulshock and Karlin-produced "Cosmic Journey," an en coitus odyssey featuring Bilal that starts out with first-album Beach House keyboard clipping and winds down into quickening IDM-glitch ecstasy. Or "T.O.N.Y.," Cee-Lo's maudlin soul contribution, where our girl can't--or won't--get over some chump who isn't returning her calls. Worse--if still thrilling in a summer-cruise sense--are Motown-certified "Sandcastle Disco" (where Knowles likens her resolve and durability to the titular edifice) and "Would've Been the One" (where she takes undue comfort in being some jerk's Girl Friday). It's only on "I Decided"--a Supremes-lookin' jangle courtesy of the Neptunes that might be Hadley's highlight--that Knowles takes charge, making it known to a beau that he's definitively earned the Mr. Right title.

Ultimately, she succeeds in underlining that she isn't Beyoncé, but therein lies the problem; the beats she's chosen don't command attention, her concerns are relatively pedestrian, and her vocal range and stamina are average at best. Hadley doesn't make you want to root for, despise, desire, or be her--mostly, it just makes you wanna shrug.

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