by Dom Jones
When I heard the debut album from H.E.R. (which was a compilation of two shorter projects that had been previously released), I was impressed. She played to the current sound with trap drums, but also had meaningful and relatable songwriting, with songs ordered in a way that told a story. This album felt like more than just a collection of songs. H.E.R. is said to be an acronym for “Having Everything Revealed,” which, if true, feels appropriate, since this music held a certain level of honesty that was more vulnerable than vulgar, a trait that I can appreciate in today’s musical landscape. So, when I heard that H.E.R. had dropped a new album, I rushed to listen.
First, let’s be honest: this is an EP, not an album, which people tend to confuse and use interchangeably. With six tracks that include an interlude, as a listener, you can feel the brevity of this project, and it feels as though a movie cut off five minutes after the previews ended and the movie you came to see started. Though the ending felt abrupt, let’s start at the beginning. “Lost Souls,” a surprising rap track to start off the music, felt like clear homage to Lauryn Hill. From the lyrics to the production, it was clear that Ms. Hill was the influence for the track, yet the execution left something to be desired. The spoken word on the second track “Against Me” felt like a better fit for this project. Now, before you get on my case about this comment, I’m ALL FOR women stepping into the ring and giving us bars. The thing is: emcees who are women are judged so much more harshly than emcees who are men. It’s the old adage, “You have to be twice as good to get half as much.” If H.E.R. had come onto that first track blazing, I would be cheering from the rooftops, but that’s not what happened. It’s nice that she was paying homage to Lauryn Hill, especially in this time of people seemingly tiring of Lauryn’s tardiness to her own concerts and lack of new music. That being said, what I heard was a bourgeoning emcee at best and a singer/songwriter/producer mistakenly stepping out of her lane at worst. If this is something being taken seriously, I would just say, sharpen the craft before releasing something on wax.
I saw this meme on social media a few days ago and started laughing so hard! If I had a dollar for every R&B project with an
interlude that I wish would have been a full song, I could pay off my student loans… well, at least make a big dent in them. Such is the case on the “Be On My” interlude for this EP. Because it’s already a short project, I feel extra cheated that the best song on it is an interlude! I always wonder why an artist chooses to make something an interlude, instead of a full song, and this song in particular has me completely baffled about why H.E.R. wouldn’t take this song to its full capacity. It cuts off abruptly, too, as if there IS MORE.
The next song, “Could’ve Been,” featuring Bryson Tiller, is a solid song and more of what we’ve heard on previous work. Tiller is a take it or leave it feature, and not super necessary for the song. “Feel A Way” speaks to the smart songwriting that has always played to popular culture and vernacular. Even though I think the writing in the hook is too easy, it’s very hooky and singable. It’s another stand out song, as it is extremely headnoddable. “As I Am” wraps up this EP with a surprisingly more upbeat feel. Overall, I enjoy the EP, even though I feel that it’s way too short. In addition, there’s a “haven’t I heard these melodies before?” feeling throughout the entire project. I understand having a style, but when it starts to feel like every song is a slight variation of another song in the artist’s catalog, that’s a bit concerning. My hope for this project is that it’s a lead up to a more evolved version of H.E.R. sound.