Solange finds her own voice

From the very first track on Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams, Solange makes it clear that she is her own star, not to be cast forever in the shadows of her mega-diva international superstar older sibling, the other Knowles.”I’m not her and never will be. Let my star light shine on its own. I’m not a sister, I’m just my God given name” she sings in a soft sultry voice.

And Solange definitely proves she can hold her own in the spotlight, sans the Knowles last name. With production by The Neptunes, Cee-lo and collaborations with Bilal and Raphael Saadiq, Solange has the sound of a more seasoned artist working on her third or fourth album.

Each track gives listeners a taste of solid, honest, heartfelt lyrics and retro beats reminiscent of Motown Supremes /Martha and the Vandellas era.

If Beyonce is the untouchable superstar, Solange is the more relatable, sharp and witty home-girl next door.

In the bluesy “Valentine’s Day,” she talks to her love lost, mid-song in a way R&B singers used to break it down in the ’70s. “Why do I gotta make it through Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day without you keeping me warm? Those kisses? And those goddamned gifts?” she asks candidly in a sassy voice with a hint of a Houston accent like only she can.

Other stand-out tracks include “Ode to Marvin,” a look at the ills of a broken society in a non-preachy way. “Don’t let me fall victim to this human nature. I know the way it is don’t mean it’s how its supposed to be. I wonder where this broken place is going to take us? And what’s the way? I want to know” she pleads honestly.

” Would’ve been the one” is an original and unique song from the perspective of a trophy girlfriend, one of many. “Cosmic Journey” featuring Bilal is a delightful slow and hypnotic song that takes the album to an even higher level. And then there’s the feel-good, radio-worthy singles of the album – “I Decided” and “Sandcastle Disco” – that bring listeners to a happy place.

So, can Solange beat the sibling curse and garner her own success and solid fan base? She has a little more work to do.

On some songs, Solange could give a little more “umph” vocally, and in some cases she sounds strained. However, Solange has graduated from the days of collaborating with the likes of Lil Romeo (yes, I remembered) and offering nothing more than sugary gum-drop lyrics to a mature and wonderfully produced sophomore album.