Things I Imagined
On Solange’s artistry
The jokes come too easily with “Things I Imagined,” but Solange Knowles Ferguson is in on the joke, she doesn’t give a fuck, and I love it. She knows as well as we do that clowning is a Black tradition, whether repeating one line for one minute and fifty-nine seconds is meant to imitate jazz or not. Jokes keep us alive, just like art does. Given this duality, there is something worth exploring beyond the memes.
The repetition of that phrase — things I imagined — in different vocal placements and intonations establishes what Vanessa Taylor calls a “necessary basis” to highlight the power of [Black] imagination. Similiarly, Clarissa Brooks writes that “Solange makes them tangible; she imagines things into being,” and I take that claim seriously.
Solange had to travel 70 states in order to lovingly return to Houston. She saw things she imagined on that journey, and us seeing those same things doesn’t matter. Because she did, she does, and she always will.
Whether it was about the coin or the suede, she envisioned three collections with Puma that created a visual stamp we now associate with Solange, and by extension, Saint Heron. Throughout her unintended debut with Destiny’s Child, her iconic Proud Family anthem, and the albums that preceded When I Get Home, Solange has always been “different.” If you like that difference or you just think “Almeda” is a hit that sticks like grits, Solange has always seen things she imagined, but many of us chose not to see those things. And when we finally did view, hear, or experience them, we didn’t see them as she saw them.
“Things I Imagined” is not just a statement about us finally seeing her and her creations as she intended — a la the commercial and critical success she received for A Seat at the Table but not for her wonderful 2012 album, True. “Things I Imagined” is also about centering herself within her context: Houston as home. Period.
More literally, Metatronia exemplifies this track. Her performance art piece and sculpture moved from ideas to sketches, sketches to meetings, meetings to builders, builders to choreographers, choreographers to dancers, dancers to branding, branding to film, and film to museum(s). Solange used Instagram to give us a preview when she wrote: ”been building my dreams into dimensions, (and living with an abundance of gratitude that these practices manifest)”.
Her “modular structure and performance art piece” was not just something she imagined, but something she literally saw through to fruition. Visualizing the process of creation, Metratronia was just a peak behind her veil.
If you saw her on tour, you also witnessed her set design, creation design, musical direction, choreography, energy, attention to detail, and vision. You felt her on tour. And I feel her when the lyric(s) resound in my head.
But being really real? She saw things she imagined, and there is no easier way to put it. Sometimes it’s just that simple.