« Back of My Mind »: Get to fully know H.E.R.
H.E.R. recently released her latest full length album, Back of My Mind. And at 21 tracks, “full length” may be an understatement. A mosaic of styles and themes— ranging from soulful love songs to hip-swaying bops— her latest project has something for everyone.
H.E.R.: As genuine as unpredictable
Back of My Mind isn’t particularly consistent because of the heterogeneous collection of stories and sounds that represent each and every mood swing of hers. From I Used to Know H.E.R., previously decrypted on Sounds So Beautiful., to #BOMM, H.E.R. finally uncovers all the layers of her mysterious being, and shows off her face, her blaze in her gaze, real state of mind. However, she does remain most unpredictable.
Therefore you may love some songs but not others. For example, someone who appreciates the sultry tracks on the album might then grow weary of the many ballads that, while being pretty, tend to blend together when listened to in succession. With that being said, songs like “Hold On” are simply exquisite.
One might also grow weary of all the collaborations, of which there are a lot. Some of them make total sense, like the return of Cordae on Trauma. This rapper already appeared in H.E.R.’s previous project, on The Lord Is Coming, and every time they do a collab, the listener can appreciate a good hint of truth and wisdom in their lyrics.
Other songs are surprising, like the feature with DJ Khaled. Some of them are even questionable, like in her hit song “Come Through.” Why collaborate with Chris Brown, someone who managed to escape the #MeToo cut despite being an abuser?
Finally, she repeats her tribute to Drake by sampling Closer to My Dreams for Closer To Me. The last time she gave tribute to the Artist of the Decade was in her Grammy winning debut album H.E.R. with the song Jungle. In a sense, these collaborations with DJ Khaled, Bryson Tiller, and Chris Brown are a way to pay respect to the ones who paved the way to her music and her rise within the next generation of R&B.
Although the cover art is painted black, this album presents a colorful mosaic of modern sounds: these are all the vibes, flavors and genuine sentiments that made her feel fully— and confidently— herself.
There are bright pieces glowing with celebration and exuberance like “We Made It” and “Find A Way.” Muted pieces that are imbued with aching sadness like “For Anyone” and “Don’t,” or drained of all color like “Exhausted” and “My Own.” Pieces that glitter with confidence and seduction like “Come Through” and “Closer To Me.”
Back of my mind: A puzzle of her darkest thoughts
In a Genius x Spotify “Behind the Lyrics” interview for “Damage,” the 24 year old singer explains that songwriting is like a diary:
“Sometimes it’s an exaggerated version of what I might have felt, and that’s fine. I feel everything so deeply. I’m a Cancer, so I’m very emotional. It’s all things I think about: all of these thoughts I pull from the deepest, darkest places. I guess that’s why people love it so much— because they’re the things that we’re afraid to say.”H.E.R. on Genius x Spotify for Damage
H.E.R. has always been vulnerable in her music, but the way she expresses that vulnerability has changed over the years. When she first debuted as an artist the reason for her vulnerability was “selfish” because she just wanted to release everything she was feeling.
“And then it turns out all these women are like ‘wow, I feel this like she’s speaking my life.’ My diary is also a lot of other people’s diaries. Just in different ways, different extremes. And it became a beautiful thing.”H.E.R. on Genius x Spotify for Damage
H.E.R. has had remarkable success by giving voice to her own inner life and tangle of emotions; but as she grows she’s expanding her lens. She feels a greater artistic purpose to give voice to what it means to be a woman and navigate love in 2021.
H.E.R. actually writes all about the Experience of the Feminine
The expression of that vulnerability takes many forms in Back of My Mind, which is like a mosaic of The Experience of the Feminine. There are dark pieces that focus on processing toxic relationships and self-worth, like “Mean It” and “Cheat Code.”
« Maybe I should be more like her
Just forget about what’s right, just forget about my worth
Maybe I should be heartless too
That’s somethin’ y’all have in common, I’m cut from a different cloth and it » – Mean it
“It started to make me realize I could be a voice.” H.E.R. explained in her Spotify interview. “I’ve become a voice for young women who are growing up and uncomfortable being vulnerable, uncomfortable with changes, heartbreak— and becoming jaded. It’s about acknowledging it and empowering yourself, and empowering other women, sharing these stories, and making people feel like they’re not alone.”H.E.R. on Genius x Spotify for Damage
Her remark about sharing stories feels particularly significant when examining Back of My Mind. This album does indeed read as a collection of stories, each song featuring its own protagonist, theme, and tone. Though each track is distinct, they are all connected by H.E.R.’s strength in laying down rawness and truth to buttery beats.