By Ash Jones, Staff Writer
Brittany Howard refuses to remain stagnant. She searches and picks apart her struggles in an attempt to find hope on the other side of the tunnel.
After stepping away from her lead singer role in the bluesy, southern band Alabama Shakes, Howard cultivated a voice with its own unique timbre. It’s unparalleled, yet has a resignation that swoons the hearts of people who have lived like Howard.
She has repeatedly written what it means to loathe and appreciate where you come from, whether that be in a familial sense or regionally. She continues to reckon with the grief that follows her. Most importantly, there’s this overarching theme within her music where she’s trying to avoid the idea of settlement, which Howard explores in her new single, “What Now.”
These dispositions don’t necessarily proliferate over time, however; Howard combats them, or at least learns to live with them, through understanding the neuroses of herself. What I love about “What Now” is that it opens with a state of conflict and concludes with self-assurance and having the courage to escape something that has been clung to for too long.
THE JOURNEY OF ONESELF
Everyone has a past that, regardless of if one moves away from it, will never erode from the core of their character. Brittany Howard has always emphasized that upbringing is vital, and for her, it still shapes the everchanging person that she is today.
Howard was born in Athens, Alabama to an interracial couple, which, unsurprisingly, sparked a lot of vitriol from the Athens community towards her family. She has integrated the bulk of her weighted past into her songwriting. She’s well acquainted with ostracization and the feeling of harboring a convoluted identity.
In “What Now,” Howard seems more complete, like she knows the tenets (though subject to change) that piece together to make her personality. Though she knows who she is, the posed question for Howard is “What Now?” — Where do we go from here?
Presumably, Howard is moving past a relationship or another monumental predicament that has involved another party trying to tear her down. She cries with grit, explaining that this relationship is faux love and coated in restraint, singing “I've been making plans that don't include you anymore. My heart wants to stay but I don't know what for.” Howard struggles with the vice of being afraid to let go, but she knows that a release could leave her left in the hands of uncertainty.
The song concludes with her chanting “I ain’t sorry” juxtaposed to the beginning: “Blame it on me.” Howard leaves the track dignified, unafraid of what’s to come even if the process of self-discovery is a journey without a detailed map.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BRITTANY HOWARD?
Along with the new track that came after her brief hiatus, Howard released a music video. She translated her beautiful songwriting abilities to compose a short plot that simultaneously went along with the lyrics of “What Now.” The music video is a futuristic-noir vignette that could be straight out of a Bond film if it were remade fifty years into the future.
Brittany Howard is also beginning her What Now Tour on November 6th, performing in her home-state at Iron City Bham. She will play at the Wilbur in Boston on February 12th, 2024, surely winning over any rock fan that needs a little southern grit in their lives.