Don't Touch My Hair

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"Don't Touch My Hair"
Song by Solange featuring Sampha
from the album A Seat at the Table
ReleasedSeptember 30, 2016
GenreAlternative R&B
Length4:17
Label
Songwriter(s)
  • Knowles
  • Cook
  • Sisay
  • Sitek
  • Wimberly
Producer(s)
  • Solange Knowles
  • Sampha
  • Sitek
  • Wimberly
  • Cook
Music video
Don't Touch My Hair on YouTube

"Don't Touch My Hair" is the ninth track on American singer and songwriter Solange's third studio album, A Seat at the Table. It was released by Saint Records and Columbia Records on September 30, 2016 with its music video being released the following week. It was written by Knowles, Bryndon Cook, Sampha Sisay, Dave Andrew Sitek, and Patrick Wimberly.

Background and writing[edit]

Knowles started creating the album four years ago and has been creating and editing tracks, including "Don't Touch My Hair", since its release.[1] During the writing of "Don't Touch My Hair" and the creation of the full album, she has posted personal essays on her website, Saint Heron, linking the ideas of these personal essays with messages in the album. One essay that has been linked to the creation and writing of "Don't Touch My Hair" would be ""And Do You Belong? I Do." In this she says “You and your friends have been called the N-word, been approached as prostitutes, and have had your hair touched in a predominately white bar just around the corner from the same venue."[2] Experiencing micro-aggressions towards black women's hair, and being the daughter of a hairdresser, lead Knowles to create a song based on how hair is "incredibly spiritual, and, energetically, it really encompasses and expresses who we are."[1] She states the meaning of the song "is as much as what it feels like to have your whole identity challenged on a daily basis, although physically touching the hair is extremely problematic!"[1] Hair has been used as a tool of oppression to black people in the United States because of the different textures and styles black women’s hair offers. Such textures and styles have been mocked, appropriated, and used as a source for profiling. Solange reflect in her song how her hair is a major part of her identity and influences her daily life, because it offers difference to the stereotyped “normal” hair textures european/white culture so often displays. Historically, black women have “normalized” and changed their hair in order to perform respectability politics, to gain respect from white society as black hair was seen as deviant and unprofessional. Because of the hundreds of years of oppression black people have encountered due to their hair, black person’s hair is inherently a huge part of one’s identity, yielding the importance of respecting other hair styles and textures, as well as not misappropriating one’s culture by adopting styles and techniques without proper credit to those who created them. Solange titles the song “Don’t Touch My Hair” to gain respect and ownership of her hair, which is important work in black feminism, speaking against systematic racism. In the black community, hair is a means of opportunity, which is socially unjust. Hair styles and textures have played an extreme role in the profiling and viewing of black people, keeping them from certain professions, interviews, and spaces, which is more familiarly referred to as racism.

Music video[edit]

Solange Knowles debuted the music video for "Don't Touch My Hair" on October 2, 2016 on YouTube.[3] In the music video there are an abundance of different hairstyles like Marcel waves, brushed out curls, beaded braids, afros, and then a crown of looped braids.[4] It shows Knowles and cast of dancers swaying back and forth between frames, all moving in soft and elegant steps with the warm harmonies and falsetto, giving the music video a very gentle, yet strong tone because of the overall message and the facial expressions shown on Knowles and the dancers.

Reception[edit]

Rolling Stone said the track "uses sparkling synths and drowsy horns as broadsides against those who might deny Knowles and other black women their bodily autonomy", conveying a message of brutal honesty in tender and rich harmonies.[5] Pitchfork Magazine wrote that "'Don’t Touch My Hair' moves at a heartbeat’s pulse, subtle and steady, yet vibrant" and "can be read as an explicit rejection of this behavior (the devalue and alienation of black spaces), as a simple establishment of boundaries, or as a powerful pledge of personal identity."[6]

Natelegé Whaley, writing for The Huffington Post, gave the song a positive review, highlighting in particular the importance of its message of praising black women's hair during such a socially volatile period: "Hair is used as a metaphor for our entire essence on this track and is the perfect symbol, as our hair is one thing that has always been policed throughout history and into the present."[7] Vogue Magazine found the song to be an uplifting message about hair, and noted how its message relates to a specific community while also being accessible and relevant to the broader community of women in general.[8]

Though "Don't Touch My Hair" was widely acclaimed, it was less successful commercially. It debuted, and peaked, at 91 on the Billboard's Hot 100 the week of October 22, 2016, dropping off the chart the next week.[9]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2016) Peak
position
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 91
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[11] 14

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "A Seat With Us: A Conversation Between Solange Knowles, Mrs. Tina Lawson, & Judnick Mayard - Saint Heron". Saint Heron. 2016-09-30. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  2. ^ "And Do You Belong? I Do - Saint Heron". Saint Heron. 2016-09-11. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  3. ^ "Solange Knowles Dropped Two New Music Videos From A Seat at the Table". Vulture. 2016-10-03. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  4. ^ SolangeKnowlesVEVO (2016-10-02), SOLANGE - DON'T TOUCH MY HAIR (OFFICIAL VIDEO), retrieved 2016-12-02
  5. ^ "Review: Solange's 'A Seat at the Table' Walks Softly, Speaks Radically". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  6. ^ ""Don't Touch My Hair" [ft. Sampha] by Solange Review | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  7. ^ BE, Natelegé Whaley Digital storyteller passionate about giving millennials of color spaces to (2016-10-06). "Solange's 'Don't Touch My Hair' Is An Anthem Reclaiming Black Autonomy". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  8. ^ Hartman, Eviana. ""Don't Touch My Hair"—Solange's New Music Video Has an Announcement to Make". Vogue. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  9. ^ "Solange - Chart history | Billboard". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  10. ^ "Solange Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  11. ^ "Solange Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved October 12, 2016.