Cloaked artists. Mystery music. Moods set by smokey lounges, late night drives, and midnight rendezvous. Slowed down and sexy tones pioneered by the Weeknd before he moved to the forefront of music and became a Starboy or went to Kiss Land. Mystery artists are all the rage today and today, I’ll introduce two.
Note: Sequels to both have been released. You can check my reviews of Vol 2 here.
Sultry and smooth writing. A few covers and a strongly relatable narrative for all the ladies. Combined with “love” from a ton of major artists like Alicia keys, Justine Skye, Tiara Thomas, and Wyclef Jean a “viral” hit was created. I put viral and love in quotation marks because it wasn’t long before the internet found out who the artist was and who she was signed to. Her name is Gabi Wilson and she’s been a child star since 10 on Maury, Good Morning America, etc., and is finally coming to age. Now, without the detective work, she has kept her visibility super low, and the only reason people know is because of the Jungle cover that was released before she picked up the H.E.R. moniker but, I will continue without focusing too much on who she is. But for those asking…
Beyond that, the album is exactly what we have heard refined over the past six years since House of Balloons, Sailing Soul(s), and the midnight R&B wave began. Does this EP bring anything new to the genre? No. But, then that begs to question, does it have to? H.E.R.’s voice is hypnotizing, controlled, and easy to enjoy. She has samples of cult favorites from Floetry and makes constant references to famous rifts in 00 R&B. She hits all the buttons needed to be appreciated by fans of this genre including occasional staccato singing, slowed vocals, slang, and Uber references. In short, it’s great music that fits nicely into the music of today. Now, what’s interesting is what happened next.
H.E.R. Vol. 1
Less than a month after the release of H.E.R. Vol 1., H.I.M. appears.Witty, catchy, and equally mysterious. Branding completely mirrors H.E.R. and for the longest people had no clue if the two were connected or not. A few IG posts later, we find out the RCA and Sony were trying to sue dude for H.I.M. Vol 1. So, there’s the answer. He definitely put together a response EP with marketing, mastering, and some original content within less than a month. He was genius on seeing an opportunity and capitalizing on it. The smart thing would have been for Sony to hurry and sign H.I.M. and claim the connection themselves but they were outsmarted. H.I.M. has slowly been gaining stream as he completely transformed all of the concepts and imagery to his own. Now, whatever successes one has will be shared. The amazing thing behind this whole thing is that the mystery artist concept was stolen from a thing indie artists created to differentiate themselves from major control. It’s delicious irony at its best.
On to the music. H.I.M. does exactly what he set out to do. Created a more complete response album than anything that has been made and does it from a genuine perspective. He takes the sounds of Eric Bellinger, Drake, The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller, and mixes them to near perfection. I really appreciate the H.I.M. Interludes as they break up the tempo and add a different narrative to the stories that are more implied through H.E.R.’s work. I also appreciation HYMN at the end of the EP. I wouldn’t respect the EP if he didn’t give a nod to the namesake. Overall, similar to H.E.R., H.I.M. accomplishes exactly what he set out to do, make quality music that anyone could vibe to today. Both H.I.M. and H.E.R. through anonymity and today’s musical tropes explore the relationship between industry and indie, male and female, and the use of avatars as something to connect to. Will they both be successful because of this? Not by itself. You can have great marketing all day long but without the music to fall back on, it’s pointless.
H.I.M. Vol. 1
How do you all feel about music that harkens back to the musical response days of the late 90s? Do you think H.I.M. was wrong for using H.E.R. as a template for building his own career? Does it really matter? I don’t think so, but tell me what you think in the comments below.