Let Solange’s lovely, funk-tinged new A Seat at the Table serve as a reminder that the Knowles family double-dipped on talent. Solange may prefer a more low-key approach over her big sister’s commanding, powerhouse vocals, and her smooth, Prince-inflected R&B may contrast sharply with Bey’s aggressive anthems, but both siblings share two important characteristics: Immense musical ability and fantastic genetics.
The Knowles sisters, after all, are just one of the numerous sets of musical siblings to have emerged as dueling talents over the years. The Bach family, famously, birthed at least nine classical music virtuosos spanning three generations; slightly less famously, the Jackson, Everly, Allman, Hanson, and Jonas families had a lot of boys (and Janet!). Researchers have been reluctant to seek evidence of musical talent solely in our family trees, but, confronted with the sheer number of musical broods out there, they’ve had to acknowledge that musicality may at least have partial genetic roots.
Genes most likely play a role in setting an “upper limit” to the level of musical achievement and speed at which a person can learn music, a 1966 study in The Eugenics Review (yikes!) suggested, culling data from pairs of musical twins. Follow-up research in 1987, breaking down what musical ability entailed into its elements — a person’s interest in becoming a professional musician, their number of music honor awards showed that both identical and fraternal twins consistently showed similar scores among these traits.
Still, even the Knowles sisters’ musical genes couldn’t have brought them this far without the intense training their notoriously intense stage dad, Matthew Knowles, put them through. It makes sense, then, as researchers discovered in 2015, that much of the role genetics played had to do with a person’s ability to practice effectively. In the study of over 800 pairs of twins, the researchers found that at least a quarter of the genetic effect drove traits like musical aptitude, enjoyment and motivation, as Scientific American noted — all of which are crucial for keeping artists going during long hours spent practicing in the studio or stage.
Given compelling evidence of the present-day Knowles’s musical genes, it’s hard not to imagine the future of their family’s musical legacy: After all, Solange’s firstborn Julez is the son of the rapper “Yung Sosa,” and Blue Ivy carries the blueprint of Jay-Z.Photos via Getty Images / Imeh Akpanudosen