Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Solange – Cranes in the Sky

Way up high…


[Video][Website]
[8.80]

Olivia Rafferty: Sometimes a song arrives which doesn’t feel like it’s been written, but instead unearthed. That initial hum and rhythm fades in as if it were emerging from a forgotten memory. Lyrically, it’s simple in terms of structure, which again allows our ears to simultaneously guess at and expect the next line. Then we have Solange’s delicate vocals: they come in lightly and caress until the finish. As soon as it’s over, I can already hear it echoing in my head, waiting to fade in again.
[10]

Tim de Reuse: Across a heavenly, sparse beat, full of tickly background elements that almost resolve into motifs or melodies or tonal centers but stay just out of reach, Solange sings about grounded things. Incredibly grounded things. Coping mechanisms, brutally exposed in plain language with few lyrical frills to soften them — something about her soft, love-song delivery makes stark lines like “I slept it away, I sexed it away, I read it away” into unforgiving gut punches. It wouldn’t work if not for the scattered rhythms she sings it in, the breathy overlapping voices, and the incredible restraint in the production, which all speak to a state of profound emotional directionlessness better than a minor key ever could.
[9]

Claire Biddles: I think I find pop self-help narratives isolating because they’re never really about autonomy — they’re about going out with the ladies, finding someone to fuck, relying on other people to tend to the symptoms rather than addressing the problem oneself. “Cranes in the Sky” is about distraction, but it’s relatable because it doesn’t present a one-size solution to sadness, and it’s introspective even when Solange is at her most reckless. Shopping, sex, crying, travelling — I’ve done them all to try and make the “it” go away, and I needed to do them all alone. This speaks to me so much because it acknowledges the difficulties of self care in the context of self-sufficiency. 
[9]

Megan Harrington: This feels like a world of Solange’s own creation, by her own design. It’s a place very high up, where the cliff and the sky meet, and there her most unmediated self exists. We all have a need for this place, somewhere pure we can visit, somewhere without the burden of existence. The gift of “Cranes in the Sky” is Solange giving this place a blueprint, a destination, and then sharing it with us so we, too, can hear a version of paradise. 
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: A huge artistic leap for Solange, “Cranes in the Sky” was co-written and co-produced with Raphael Saadiq, who was a smart choice. His backing track of mostly strings and drums (with some discreet piano) pairs sublimely with Solange’s lyrics about trying to do anything to avoid her pain. She tries to “drink it away,” “work it away,” but nothing works. Unexpectedly delicate, “Cranes in the Sky” is soul music that is simultaneously timeless and timely.
[9]

Joshua Copperman: A shout-out to Raphael Saadiq: That oversaturated drum loop. That cello, with the subtle phasing. That piano, gliding from left to right. Then that tense bass line, unwilling to resolve, contrasting with the warmth of everything around it. All of these things happen before the lyrics even start. When they finally do begin, they’re fantastic — while her sister was intense and confrontational on Lemonade, Solange is introverted and quietly vulnerable. She can be witty as well, as lines like “I sexed it away/I read it away” show, but the way she depicts depression in this song contains a level of intimacy that I’ve seen in very few writers this year from any genre, in any format. Finally, Solange’s performance, between both her heady lead vocal melody and all the backing harmonies, is just jaw-dropping. 
[9]

Jonathan Bogart: A cubist approach to Minnie Riperton, a self-love song that posits the self as big enough for the world to curl up into its arms. The naked soul-jazz beat, the slow-drag cello, the pentatonic glissandi are just an expressionist backdrop: the real drama is in her many-multipled voice.
[9]

Alfred Soto: Not unlike the Minnie Ripperton-influenced brand of quiet R&B with which Corinne Rae Bailey triumphed last spring but without the approval of white collegians, “Cranes in the Sky” is a rippling mediation on keeping one’s composure while sexting and eating breakfast. The string section adds the sadness, the rim shots the accumulating desperation.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: I love to root for the underdog in a family. I maintain the best Minogue album was made by Dannii, and that Venus Williams’ highest level of tennis would beat Serena’s. Solange, in theory, should be far more relatable than her sister, but when I listen to “Cranes in the Sky,” I’m curiously unmoved. I tell myself over and over that this ticks all the boxes I want, but I don’t feel it. Corinne Bailey Rae’s “I’d Do it All Again” (its nearest peer time-wise) is exquisite and wrenching; this one’s just pretty.
[7]

Will Adams: Gorgeous as a sunrise diffused through a thin fog, slowly becoming clearer as the colors melt from red to amber to brilliant yellow.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: A lost bassline paces while Solange tries drinking, shopping, and sexing herself back to happiness. A brocade of plucked-strings and cloud-wisp synths — this is a beat that feels palpably as if something has been removed from it, is missing — suggest she might be there already, or at least that whatever it is that hurts mightn’t matter as much as she had supposed. Lightness never felt so heavy, but, on the other hand, “Cranes in the Sky” possesses the implausible lightness that appears after an omnipresent weight has been lifted. The title refers, I realized belatedly, to construction machinery; I had been thinking of the paper sort used to memorialize an atomic bombing.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: Half of “Cranes in the Sky” is literal — the “cranes in the sky” being the weapons that fell neighborhoods. The other half is more personal: a malaise ineffable yet pervasive, that can only be pushed back, that catches up to you if you stop for even a minute. Solange, the technician to Beyonce’s performer, plans every voice crack and distraction order (it is absolutely intentional that “sexed it away” is followed by “read it away”). The effect is deliberate, almost dispassionate: a percussion loop and a melody that circles warily around its subject and never resolves.
[9]

Natasha Genet Avery: Our popular conception of depression centers around languishing — dark rooms, rainy days, stillness. “Cranes in the Sky” paints an alternative vision, one that feels truer to my own experience, where everything just takes so much more effort. Over those haunting, droning strings,  Solange guides us through a relentless line of “I tried”s. The two minutes of rambling, beautiful, delicate verses before the chorus are the perfect retort to the well-meaning friend who hits you with, “but have you tried just being happy?”. Solange frames this struggle with an apt titular metaphor — cranes in the sky invoke a foe that is looming, towering, and seemingly invincible.
[9]

William John: “Cranes in the Sky” is for the times when you awaken to a pink sky at dawn and everything is embedded with an unusual clarity. It is for humid, fruitless, rainy afternoons where almost nothing feels worthwhile. It is for times when tears well in your eyes, rippling like a pressed concertina, simulating the strings which are accentuated and processed here with such heavy, poignant vibrato. It is for the moments when your emotions hover between a halcyon self-reconciliation and shattering collapse. It carries with it an almost unbearable weariness. It is a perfect distillation of someone so fatigued with the anti-Black and anti-woman tendencies of humanity; of someone so exhausted by innumerable obstacles that I, thanks to nothing but fortune, will never be able to fully conceive or imagine. But pathos begets catharsis, and here the catharsis arrives as immeasurable beauty. The song’s balletic pacing, piano in contrary motion, rippling harp and Riperton ululations are a reminder that the bullshit can be combatted with self-actualisation and a flex.
[10]

Danilo Bortoli: The Gospel of Solange: 1. Love yourself no matter what. 2. Self-acceptance is hard. It does not come easy. It might take eight whole years to get your story straight and the work of your life out there for people to see you and appreciate how beautiful your art is. 3. Yet, when you do realise you are good enough, do not take the pain away. 4. Work upon it, develop it. That is your art, your way of living. 5. Make it your mantra. 6. Contemplate it, strengthen it, make it eternal and universal. 7. Make everyone see how hard you are trying. 8. Make beauty seem tangible and easily reachable. 9. Reach transcedence. 10. Create, even if it is just for some solid four minutes, the most beautiful song in the whole world.
[10]

Reader average: [8.08] (23 votes)

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5 Responses to “Solange – Cranes in the Sky”

  1. SHAKE UP THESE HERE LEADERBOARDS BABY

  2. This was an absolute joy to edit. Thank you, everyone.

  3. Great writing for a great song. The backing reminds me of La Ritournelle but the emotions and context are so different.

  4. Oh, Kat, NICE CALL! “La Ritournelle” is totally it. I love that song, and dunno how I missed the comparison.

  5. Yes, this is one of the “10” song of the year. The production is absolutely exquisite, my God. And how stunning is that string arrangement!

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