JANUARY 4 2018

Didn't have to wait long for the first great cover of 2018.

Though the issue isn't out yet, I already like three things about it (four, counting the stunning portrait):

1. The ongoing (and rightful) reframing of Solange as an artist, from pop star to "politically minded visual artist creating powerful multidisciplinary works" or, more succinctly tweeted by the piece's writer Antwaun Sargent, "black contemporary artist". She was never totally convincing as a pop star, but now? She feels essential.

2. Her increasingly active role in this reframing: "I'm not at all interested in entertainment. I'm interested in energy exchange between the viewer and the performer," she announces in the profile. With this kind of talking point (and this kind of magazine, even), she expands her possibilities: that exchange can, when she wants it to, be about entertainment—but it doesn't have to. That's a hard bargain for traditional pop stars.

JAN. 11 NOTE: The article was published today, with the title "Solange Knowles Is Not A Pop Star"—taken from subtext to lede.

3. Surface always collects interesting interviewees, but there's an extra extra special one in this issue: Ms. Venus Williams, as exceptional a sports figure as can be both on and off the court. My whole entire being is here for the swelling amount of Venus appreciation I am noticing in non-tennis media, so instead of rambling I recommend an episode of the New York Times' podcast Still Processing, recorded last September in the midst of her banner 2017 season, in which hosts Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham discuss the reasons they love V and the personal lessons they learned from her.