Time for H.E.R.: The Rebirth of a Young Star
The rasp that envelops the beginning of her sentences oftentimes elicits a sort of sensuality that almost feels guilty, but you allow it to pull you in because you want to know more about H.E.R. Her wisdom seems to bely her years, and you say to yourself “How can this 21-year-old girl really be able to draw these raw emotions and create these dreamscapes that I identify with, so wholeheartedly?”. The answer is that it’s just who she is. You’ve probably noticed that I have been using the acronym “H.E.R.”. Well, that is the reincarnation of Gabi Wilson’s musical career. It took her some time to find her footing but I believe that she is firmly in control of her path and on the fast track to stardom.
Growing up in Vallejo, California, Gabi honed her skills by studying various aspect of music. Her first taste of national recognition was gained while performing a rendition of “If I Ain’t Got U”, by Alicia Keys, on the Today Show, at the age of 10. She then went on to compete in Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing, at the age of 12, and she bookended that period of her life by signing a record contract with Sony, by the tender age of 14. All of this while in the midst of learning to play 5 different instruments, being heralded as a “child prodigy” and even drawing comparisons to, arguably, one of the greatest musical artists of our generation, Prince. She released several songs in that timespan, most notably “Something To Prove”, but then receded from the spotlight for a number of years.
Gabi’s reemergence in 2016 was as if we were introduced to a completely different person. One that had done her due diligence and that knew exactly what she wanted to say, as well as how she wanted to say it. There was just one catch: she ensconced herself in anonymity. She introduced us to “H.E.R.” (Having. Everything. Revealed) and, in the process, began to bear her soul and captivate an audience eager to put a face to the mysterious songstress. In a December 2016 interview with NPR, she professed her desire for secrecy by saying “I really just wanted it to be about the music, and get away from, 'Who is she with?' and 'What is she wearing?' I want people to feel the emotion…”.
Maybe she’s onto something. Too often, our opinions on art forms are directly associated with how the artist looks while creating or performing their art. I believe that Gabi wanted to substantiate her claim as an artist that belonged in the music industry, without dealing with the scrutiny that comes with being a new, young artist, and having to identify with a certain look or ideology. It reminds me of the media elusiveness of one of my favorite artists, Sia Furler (Mononymously known as Sia).
The main thing that stuck out, when I found out about her music in 2016, was the polish of the records. She also has the vocal control of a seasoned veteran while, simultaneously, possessing the youthful exuberance and relatable lyrical content that would force anyone, young or old, to sit for a second and ask “Hey, who sings this song?”. By the time she decided to release her first Extended Play, H.E.R. Vol 1, she had garnered such a strong following that it sat at the top of the iTunes R&B chart.
Female Empowerment Going Platinum
The current highpoint of her career was attained when she collaborated with Daniel Caesar on “Best Part”, for his debut album “Freudian” and their duet rocketed up the US Adult R&B charts. It has since gone on to eclipse platinum status, but there is more to Gabi Wilson than her meteoric rise or her unique approach to music. In a time where female empowerment has reached a fever pitch, hereto rests a platform that she would like to shed more light upon her message. In the above-mentioned NPR interview, she continues "I am a voice for women who feel like they're alone in these situations. This project came from an emotion, and that's what I want it to be about – not what I look like or who I'm with, but the raw emotion and support for women.”. Her devotion to female kind is peppered throughout out her most recently released EP’s: I Used to Know Her: The Prelude Part 1 and Part 2 (which was released on November 2nd). To say that there are stand-out tracks on Part 2 would not do justice to the project. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire album, and I was left with a strong belief that Gabi isn’t singing about things that she is not aware of. She’s been through a lot and I am convinced of that, with every note that she hits.
And now, here we are.
Full circle. Gabi is no longer the precocious little girl on the Today Show. She is a walking testament that, sometimes, no matter how pre-ordained everyone tries to make you out to be, nothing will come before its time. She has always had the ability to captivate hearts and minds but she has veritably removed herself from the shadows, in anticipation of this moment. H.E.R. moment.
Stephan George is a Montreal based writer.