I imagined some of When I Get Home’s visual album (dir. Solange et. al., 2019) before I saw it. This makes sense, since I listened to the audio many times before I watched its film, but there was also an alignment between its setting and mine that felt miraculous (despite it being set in Houston, TX when I was nowhere near there).
In the first few months of 2019, I listened to music during Saturday morning walks to a post office (sending packages to family and friends). The outside weather was so welcoming in Maryland. A light breeze fluttered my clothes ‘til I felt I was flying. Those walks gave me the same celestial lift as When I Get Home.
When I played the album’s “Almeda,” I fantasized about horseback riding. A road I walked down just so happened to look like a street from Home’s visual album; during the ‘Way to the Show’ interlude, a cowboy trotted down a sunny residential way lined with modest, off-white houses. I pondered how it was possible for Solange and I to link the same images to the album’s soundscape without knowing each other, or ever having lived in the same places. Beyond some universalities of Black American experience, I think the answer is that sound, like everything, is more than itself. When sound is really true, it affects all of our senses (including our vision).
Solange’s visual album is distinct from its counterparts — e.g. Beyoncé’s Black Is King (2020) and Lemonade (2016), and Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer (2018) — because it feels more like a vibe than a marketing tactic (even if it is both). The film doesn’t strain to connect its segments — it doesn’t insert lengthy interludes or superimpose meaning that isn’t already there. Its music flows uninterrupted, moving toe-to-toe with its imagery. To paraphrase one of the album’s tracks, every element of the film brims with care and intention.
The “Dreams” visual segment is darling (and it was of course directed by Terence Nance, who is both a filmmaker and a musician). Hypnotically smooth, it tours the aging generations of a Black neighborhood — inspired by Solange’s own observations of Houston, but encompassing far more than her singular life experiences. Her visual album relishes Black plurality, peering into some of the countless dimensions of Black life. I love the film, its sights and sounds. I’m thankful for how it slows me down.