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Something About Her: The Mystery Of H.E.R.
The musical sensation is changing how we hear – and feel – music with her talent, vision and mystique
We all fall in love differently. But most of us rely on a combination of stimuli from the eyes, ears, smell and touch. H.E.R., has forced us to fall in love with her music using just one thing: our ears.
Two years ago, the California native made a splash with H.E.R. Vol. 1, a powerful seven-track EP with cover art that only displayed a silhouette of curves and curls. Even today, she remains a beautiful enigma, hiding behind sultry lyrics, powerful intentions, harmonies, sweet melody and a never ending supply of sunglasses.
So what do we know about this mysterious artist? We know that her name is Gabi Wilson, though she hasn't confirmed this. We also know that she was a young talent who had a record deal with RCA Records when she was only 14 years old. But most importantly, we know Wilson isn’t interested in any of that anymore. She wants us to concentrate on her music, sans the woman behind it.
Nowadays the typical formula for success includes information overload, but H.E.R. has actually managed to win with her mystique. Her silence is loud. Her shadow is light. That's the thing about going left when everyone else goes right, it grabs people's attention. The move was certainly deliberate with a touch of irony - the acronym for H.E.R. is Having Everything Revealed. But why reveal so little about yourself when you have such an enormous talent?
"Concealing my identity really came from me trying to find ways to be super honest in my music," H.E.R. tells us. "I want the people to hear the music for what it is, and not have any judgments or make any assumptions."
Recently, The Weeknd also made fans fall in love with his music first. And can we blame him? Anonymity allows for a certain transparency in the creation process. There's a liberty in creating – not as someone or something – but just for the sake of art, passion and love. It's often hard for fans to separate the art from the artist.
H.E.R. grants herself freedom to explore, to be curious and to create from her highest and truest self. Without judgment, ego is silenced and magic occurs. And much of H.E.R.’s work has been created at this level. On last year’s release, H.E.R. Vol. 2, she values musicianship and cultivates sonic experiences while questioning love, lovers and even herself. Co-signed by Keys, Bryson Tiller and Rihanna, H.E.R. is a true multi-instrumentalist who plays at least five instruments including the piano, bass and guitar.
"Instruments are my roots. I grew up in a house with instruments," she tells us. "I woke up to B.B. King with my dad cooking breakfast."
Vulnerability is at the heart of soul music, a trait H.E.R. has mastered. Her powerful ballad "Focus on Me," the stand out track where vulnerability meets vocal expression on H.E.R. Vol. 1, made its way onto the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a desperate but sensual song that begs her lover to notice her, to see her, to focus on her in a way that feels like love. At age 20, her music is mature but still young. Just young, not immature.
"…Vol. 1 was a collection of songs that represented the time I was transitioning from a young girl to a young woman," she recalls. "It turned into a very selfless thing because many women can now relate to it."
We sure can. In fact, many people can relate. H.E.R. has released three EPs so far, the latest being I Used To Know Her: The Prelude, which dropped earlier this month (a full-length project is expected this fall), and she has already racked up millions of streams on YouTube and Soundcloud and over 5.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
"Her fans have connected with her artistry in an amazingly genuine way, which also enables her to create freely," says Mjeema Pickett, Head of R&B/Soul at Spotify. "Her authenticity and musicianship draw people in."
BET took notice early on. Back in 2014 she performed as a Music Matters Artist, and just this summer she hit the main stage at the 2018 BET Awards with a breakout performance of "Focus" and "Best Part," which included an electric guitar solo and a special duet with young talent, Daniel Caesar. But even then, on one of the biggest platforms on television, under the brightest of lights, she tried to hide. On a stage blanketed in smoke, dressed in oversized shades that covered most of her face an electric blue loose-fitting full-length dress with leggings, she belted out incredibly powerful melodies in a riveting performance. An obvious crowd favorite, social media was buzzing for days about her outstanding performance.
"With the overwhelming fan support for H.E.R…. we knew without a doubt her performance at this year’s BET Awards would create a memorable moment," said Connie Orlando, Head of Programming at BET. "What separates H.E.R. from other artists is not only her amazing talent but also her dedication to telling beautiful and inspiring stories through music."
Storytelling is the cornerstone of great music. A story isn’t just found in a song's the lyrics; it’s in the chords, riffs, and of course, the voice. Pain, love, confusion and passion escape through the voice. It’s where stories run wild and transform into something more beautiful. A powerful voice does not need a name, or a bio, or a look because it has its own story. It’s the beautiful – and sometimes tragic – story weaved into the fabric of humanity.
That story is what H.E.R. has allowed her music to become. Fans have given her permission to show up whenever and however she prefers in exchange for powerful music. And while the experiences, heartbreaks and life lessons come from Gabi Wilson, H.E.R. is the conduit for sharing with the world. But make no mistake, the two aren’t separate. Nothing really is. She is H.E.R., just like we are.
H.E.R. is a member of the Recording Academy and can be seen in the Academy's We Are Music campaign.
Lakeia Brown is a freelance writer and host of the podcast, Decoded with Elle Bee. She has been published in publications like O, The Oprah Magazine, Essence and Complex. You can follow her on IG @decodedwithellebee
Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY
Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business
The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.
In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip.
Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs
Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage
What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.
Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs
The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards
Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."
Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and Jonathan Yip.
The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.
Photo: David Crotty/Getty Images
Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'
The sultry R&B/pop superstar has announced she will release her 15th studio album next month – what will she bring us this time around?
Never one to do things quietly, the GRAMMY-winning R&B/pop diva with the angelic voice Mariah Carey came boldly onto the scene in 1990 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut self-titled album. At the 33rd GRAMMY Awards she took home her first two wins: Best New Artist and for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Vision Of Love," which she performed on the GRAMMY stage. The song was the album's first single and Carey's first No. 1 song. Since taking center stage at the beginning of the '90s the star hasn't looked back, releasing 13 studio albums and plenty of hits over the years. Four years after the release of her last album, she has announced that her next one is a month away. What will she serve up on her 15th LP?
The star recently shared on Twitter that her latest album is called Caution and will be released on Nov. 16, 2018. We first got a hint of a new album on Sept. 13 when she announced an album was in the works and released the lead single, "GTFO." The album's second single, "With You," followed on Oct. 4.
On "GTFO" she confidently asks a soon-to-be-ex lover "How 'bout you get the f*** out?" in breathy vocals over a slow, melodic beat by GRAMMY-winning producer Nineteen85. "With You" feels like a classic Carey R&B love song with her angelic vocals backed by snapping and a melodic slow jam groove produced by hip-hop beat maker DJ Mustard, who lets her voice shine on an uncharacteristically mellow track for him. These songs hint that her latest release will give us songs that not only showcase her incredible vocal range and versatility, but also give us both nostalgia-inducing tracks as well as radio-ready hits.
"GTFO" gives us a taste of some of the new flavor that she is bringing to her new album, singing the song's coy lyrics completely in more-understated breathy vocals without belting any big high notes, not even during the chorus. It's a catchy, playful breakup song, as she confidently sings "get the f*** out/how 'bout you take your tings and be on your merry way?/Fly off with the wind, bye bye baby/How 'bout you scusami, Mimi'll call you a valet."
The song was co-written and co-produced by Jeff Jefferies aka Nineteen85, who is half of OVO R&B duo dvsn and is responsible for producing some of Drake's biggest hits, including the GRAMMY-winning mega-hit "Hotline Bling." On the Drake's song "Emotionless" from his latest album, Scorpion, he samples Carey's lyrics from remixed classic hit "Emotions." Hopefully Jefferies has some catchy hits up his sleeve for Carey, and maybe even brings in some OVO artist surprises.
Carey has released some great collabs over the years, a majority with R&B and hip-hop artists, including Boyz II Men on heartfelt slow jam "One Sweet Day" from 1995's Daydream and Jay-Z on the upbeat classic belter "Heartbreaker" from 1999's Rainbow. We can only hope that the new album will offer some new, soon-to-be-classic hits with some of our other favorite artists.
Her most recent album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, released in 2014, had more collab tracks than usual for her, which could perhaps point towards some hot features on Caution. The deluxe edition of the 2014 album had six songs with other artists, including rappers Nas, Fabolous, Wale and R. Kelly as well as R&B singers Miguel and Mary J. Blige. The album's lead single, "Beautiful," has Miguel and Carey singing a soulful, feel-good duet, while "Dedicated" features a bounce-y, electronic-infused hip-hop beat with a verse from Nas. Seeing that she worked with big-time hip-hop producers on the new album's lead singles, we can only hope that they not only offered their production genus to more of the tracks, but perhaps brought some of their friends into the studio as well.
Fans only have to wait a month for the full dose of new music from Carey, but until then we will send our prayers to the music gods that the album will feature all of our dream collabs, perhaps some old and new friends, and offer up some new favorite songs, with some to slow dance to and others to belt out in the shower.