Here's one of those timeless R&B songs that stops you in your tracks and makes you think about your life experiences in a very introspective way.
This song is a standout track from "A Seat at the Table," an album that itself was critically acclaimed for its exploration of Black identity, empowerment, and resilience, making "Cranes in the Sky" an important piece in Solange's discography and the landscape of contemporary R&B music.
"Cranes in the Sky" won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in 2017, and no one denied that it was deserving of the accolades (no one sane, anywho).
Solange has explained that her own experiences inspired the song in trying to escape pain and depression, but what exactly are the cranes in the sky? Even without knowing all the facts, the songs hit hard. But let's dive into the process behind the writing to reveal even more about this masterpiece!
The song was written by Solange and Raphael Saadiq, who also produced the track. Its creation was part of a longer, therapeutic process for Solange, where music served as a form of healing and expression.
She said in an IG post, "It was eight years [before the song's release] Raphael Saadiq handed me a CD with a few instrumentals. One was just drums, strings, and bass. I went home and wrote 'Cranes' that night in my hotel room."
While it took several years for her to get her feelings linked up with the track, it was well worth the wait, considering how her life experiences poured into these lyrics.
She held no details back when asked about the song's meaning in an interview with her sister (THEE Beyonce).
"It's the only song on the album that I wrote independently of the record, and it was a really rough time. I know you remember that time. I was just coming out of my relationship with Julez's father. We were junior high school sweethearts, and so much of your identity in junior high is built on who you're with. You see the world through the lens of how you identify and have been identified at that time."
Solange has explained that her own experiences inspired the song in trying to escape pain and depression.
The "cranes in the sky" are metaphors for the ongoing construction and development in Miami, which Solange observed and related to her own internal struggles and attempts at self-reconstruction and healing.
"I remember looking up and seeing all of these cranes in the sky. They were so heavy and such an eyesore, and not what I identified with peace and refuge. I remember thinking of it as an analogy for my transition - this idea of building up, up, up that was going on in our country at the time, all of this excessive building, and not really dealing with what was in front of us."
Solange discusses going through a period of significant personal transition, touching on her roles as a mother and wife, and the internal struggles that came with these roles. This period of her life was marked by self-doubt and emotional challenges.
Her mention of "pity-partying" and the universal experience of struggling through one's twenties underscores the song's theme of searching for meaning and coping with internal strife.
This personal narrative is the foundation for the song's exploration of trying to "drink it away" or "dance it away"—metaphors for how people attempt to escape their problems.
The cranes Solange saw in Miami during the real estate boom symbolize both personal and societal excess and avoidance.
This type of avoidance in all of our lives can lead to a cycle of temporary relief followed by deeper feelings of emptiness or sadness, a pattern familiar to many.
Many people feel the weight of life's expectations, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or the pursuit of material success as a means to happiness.
The song's critique of excessive building and avoidance mirrors the broader issue of living in a society that often values superficial things and success over genuine well-being.
The cranes, which were initially an eyesore to her and contradicted her sense of peace, became a powerful metaphor for the superficial ways individuals and societies attempt to achieve progress or happiness.
"Cranes in the Sky" is not just a song about personal healing and escape but also a nuanced commentary on societal issues and how people and cultures attempt to build over their problems without adequately addressing them.
Solange draws a parallel between her personal experiences and the broader societal context of the time, particularly the 2008 financial crisis, which directly resulted from the real estate boom and the excessive building she mentions.
This crisis serves as a backdrop to the song, suggesting that just as individuals may crash and burn by failing to address their internal issues, societies too can collapse by ignoring deeper systemic problems.
Solange's lyrics note the cyclical nature of societal issues, showing that the lessons from the past have not been fully learned or addressed.
This gives the song a timeless quality, as it speaks to the human condition at a personal and collective level, highlighting the tendency to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths.
Ultimately, you can use this song to highlight the importance of facing one's emotions and experiences as a path to true healing and growth.
Though released in 2016, the themes of "Cranes in the Sky" remain relevant, touching on the timeless aspects of human nature, evolution, and the universal search for meaning and fulfillment.
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