The A.V. Club reviews a lot of records every week, but some things still slip through the cracks. Stuff We Missed looks back at notable releases from this year that we didn’t review at their time of release.
The gaudy maximalism of divas like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Lady Gaga found a much-needed foil this year as calmer artists took a small share of the radio spotlight. Notable among these was the late-charging Solange Knowles and her excellent single “Losing You.” The underdog of the Knowles family, Solange is an artist, who, while talented, has struggled to find an artistic space to call her own. With “Losing You,” though, she finds a suitable tone in the radio-friendly vein of smooth R&B.
That tone—a tightrope balance of tenderness and strength—stays consistent throughout the EP True, which was released digitally a few days after Thanksgiving. With the help of producer and collaborator Dev Hynes (formerly of Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange), Solange has keyed in on a soothing, soulful sound shot through with negative space, melodic synths, and slinky, nattering drums. “Losing You” provides the template, a fluid pop song with a simple sing-along chorus anchored by Solange’s steady voice. The self-control therein is impressive; Solange is never histrionic or melodramatic, even as she bemoans the tragic end of what was once a passionate relationship.
“Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work” continues the narrative, and, despite the expletive in the chorus, Solange sounds reasonable, recounting memories of love found at Jimmy Johns before asking her ex to leave her alone. Her composure is accentuated by a lively beat, a sleepy shadow of the percussion on Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Meanwhile, second single “Lovers In the Parking Lot” summons up firmer snares to let Solange reflect on her own misdeeds, with the singer occasionally flitting into an agreeable falsetto. “Played around with your heart,” she admits, “now I’m playing around in the dark.” It’s the self-possession of lyrics like these, and Solange’s newfound love for sincere, catchy hooks, that make True the best work of her young career and one of most irresistible pop records of 2012.