NEW YORK • Solange, the funk singer who has long endured comparisons with superstar sister Beyonce, on Sunday earned her first No. 1 album with an innovative and introspective work she released unexpectedly.
A Seat At The Table, in which she examines the role of African American women and her own despair, debuted at No. 1 on the United States Billboard album chart for the week through last Thursday, tracking service Nielsen Music said.
It is her first full-length album since 2008 and she said she spent years working on it, starting with extended sessions in which she would experiment with bases of sound effects.
Solange, 30, is believed to have a warm relationship with her older sister, but has resented the constant comparisons, saying she is pursuing her own path.
She has infused her music with electronica, psychedelica and dark New Wave and has been a frequent performer at alternative rock-dominated festivals.
Her album is interspersed with spoken word, including a snippet in which her father, Mr Matthew Knowles, recalls his anger at being roughed up by police and the Ku Klux Klan as a child.
Solange segues into Mad, a track featuring rapper Lil Wayne that reflects on African-Americans' struggles when faced with accusations that they are too angry.
She explores her self-doubts on Cranes In The Sky, in which she explains how she turned to drinking, shopping and other vices in her quest to heal inner wounds.
The singer found a unique way to announce A Seat At The Table - she mailed a hardcover book with the lyrics to 86 fans picked off her website, releasing the album four days later on Sept 30.
Beyonce is also a master of surprise releases, with her latest blockbuster album Lemonade paired with a made-for-television movie.
A Seat At The Table sold 72,000 copies or the equivalent in downloads and streaming during the week, Nielsen Music said.
It edged out, by just 1,000 copies, a more anticipated release - Bon Iver's 22, A Million. Best known for sorrowful folk rock, Bon Iver went in a more oblique and complicated direction with its latest album, which is filled with synthesised loops and symbolic messaging that reflects on the nature of the universe.
Bon Iver previewed the album - whose titles all cryptically involve numbers - last July at the Eaux Claires festival run by frontman Justin Vernon in his native Wisconsin.