Pop music is victorious. Taylor Swift will labor to turn every dissolved relationship into a narrative of a successful surmount of anguish (“She lost him, but found herself.”) Beyoncé will make an album about betrayal, from which actual pain and anger are removed, because she needs to focus on empowerment straight away. Weapons have to be raised even before the betrayed woman has healed (“C'mon ladies, let's get in formation.”) Adele will be sad for a while, only to enlighten us that she is suddenly fine, that she is content with losing her lover. This is a dramaturgy of life which happens to know a plot and a resolution and carries a point: “I'm over everything now. I'm strong. I'm alive.” Popular music contains everything we people like, and everything we think we need. Resolutions and points make sense out of suffering, feed hope and sustain energy for a blissful future. The answer to “Are we out of the woods yet?” has to be affirmative. Beauty and peace have to be waiting for us in the end.

While they actually might be waiting for us, we first have to endure the peak, which is rarely sung about in popular music: melancholy, confusion, fatigue, darkness, rage. We have to endure everything that has not matured to a point. All the senselessness. Moments when we miss someone we haven't even met yet, evenings when we feel as if nobody loves us the way we want to be loved, mornings when life feels too fickle and bitter to bear. All those un-photogenic moments which belong to reality, and are more common and last much longer than any victory. We have to endure these stretches of time, with which pop music does not know what to do, because it fails to see that sometimes we don't need to listen to success stories. Sometimes we only need a hug.

And here Solange's album, A Seat at the Table, intervenes. An album as warm as a hug of a friend who is too bright to exclaim that everything will be alright, because she allows us to relax in this strange fatigue of ours. She knows that at a certain temperature fatigue evolves into gentleness.

Already with her first two albums - Solo Star (2003) and Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams (2008) - Solange has displayed her willingness to experiment on the margins of R'n'B, soul and funk and also her aesthetic individualism, which peaks in her third studio album. A Seat at the Table is a showing forward – formally, and in terms of content. Solange had to drop some “success narratives” in her sister Beyoncé’s recent album, Lemonade, that – as A Seat at the Table does – organizes itself around questions of racial segregation. After that necessary drop, Solange could focus on a confessional album which her success-obsessed sister is not yet capable of realizing. She chose to work with the remarkable band leader and producer, Raphael Saadiq, and moved to a studio in New Iberia, Louisiana, to the area where her family lineage emerged.

The album's intro repeats: “Fall in your ways, so you can crumble/ Fall in your ways, so you can sleep at night.” Instead of enthusiastically calling on power, it simply confesses that something is not okay, either with us or the world. The album opens with a suggestion to speak the truth about our state, to “fall,” if falling is needed. We enter a world of a black woman living in the United States of America, which reflects all the worlds of black women on the continent. We enter a world in which sadness is naturalized, so it has become second skin; therefore, it has also become less tragic, less spectacular.

Friction between the intimate and the collective peaks in “Don't Touch My Hair, a calm piece with a Kanye West-ish type of title. The hair of black people – beside their behinds, penises and voices – are most commonly fetishized by white people, strangely unaware of their racism. Solange revolts against this unwanted touching. Her hair carries Samson's power, it carries the history that was muted and was forced to ache silently. In between songs, we can hear Knowles family members' confessions, their accounts of racism in the dark ages, then and now. The effects of the racial conflict can be read from piece to piece, but it seems that the resolution is postponed for the future. In “F.U.B.U. (For Us, By Us)” we hear that Solange's son might experience what is desired by so many politically-frustrated black people in America. The present situation makes everybody uneasy, so Solange decided to voice this uneasiness and confusion. She does not know how to move forward or what to do. She hopes the anguish of people will recede. A Seat at the Table is an album about surrendering to confusion, but never an album about capitulation. In “Scales,” at the end of the album, we hear Solange and Kelela sing about superstars jumping in the streets, living the lives they choose to live. That fate is imagined to be the fabric of times to come.

A Seat at the Table creates an environment in which the answer to strain and anxiety isn't violence and rage – as in Beyoncé's promise of revenge in Lemonade – nor is it the cacophonic and loud affirmation of “girl power” or “black power.” It doesn't offer any clean-cut political mottos. Solange takes time to rethink herself as a musician, as a woman, as a black woman, and time to rethink her culture as black culture. She takes time to simply be, to co-exist with her anguish or sadness. It is no coincidence that the album is full of phrases such as “where do we go,” “what you do to me” and “away,” which spills over “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don't Wish Me Well. Solange's honeyed voice knits the pieces together into a long, soft and surprisingly kind sigh. She makes us sigh about our processes, about everything that develops before we actually exit the woods.

She also makes us sigh with the amazing videos for “Don't Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky,” which surpass the habitual vulgarity of the genre. In “Cranes in the Sky,” tableaux vivants with black women in dreamy dresses are prevalent, and Solange is only one of them, singing about the sterile attempts to hide from bitterness, to not feel the “metal clouds” anymore. In the video – as in the song – there is no catharsis, there is no redemption, there is only this unbelievably beautiful realization that some embroideries can't be undone by us, but only by time. This realization is not only a matter of dignity and maturity. It is also a matter of grace.