Clouded by darkness, H.E.R. stands on the cover of her debut EP Volume 1, as if waiting to emerge from the shadows. This cryptic, almost teasing image perfectly reflects the ongoing mystery surrounding this R&B newcomer, whose identity remains unknown. This is not to say that H.E.R.’s anonymity has in any way limited her appeal; instantly rising to the top of iTunes’ R&B chart and garnering acclaim from the likes of Alicia Keys, Bryson Tiller and Wyclef Jean, Volume 1 has quickly generated considerable hype.
Combining stripped-back beats and soulfully smooth vocals, Volume 1 perfectly fits the classic R&B mould. Lyrically rich in emotion, H.E.R. weaves a strikingly honest narrative of youthful romance, unveiling her doubts and insecurities for all to hear. In Losing, the EP’s stirring opener, she perfectly captures both the flurrying excitement and unsettling confusion of a newfound relationship. Whilst revealing, “I promise with you/The butterflies in my stomach are active”, she concedes, “I don’t wanna keep playing them games/’Cause I feel like I’m losing.” Expressing the perplexing nature of a lover’s mind games, H.E.R.'s growing disillusion shines through.
Similar themes flow throughout Volume 1, offering H.E.R.’s brief musings on love’s complexities. In U, she laments the self-interest of her romantic counterpart. “Boy, I wish that you would see/This could be us/I’m so tired of you taking advantage of love.” Equally as intimate is Focus. Over delicately cascading harp arpeggios, H.E.R. pleads, “Baby, can you focus on me?”, wistfully admitting, “I feel alone even when we’re alone.” Honest and to the point, H.E.R.’s lyricism is sincere, open and always poignant.
With little distinction between each track’s tempo and tone, Volume 1’s structure and sound are undeniably simple. Yet, this is arguably its charm. Uncomplicated and unembellished, H.E.R.’s silky vocals and dreamily melodic instrumentals stand alone to create a seamlessly authentic R&B sound. And perhaps the artist's obscured identity adds to this sense of authenticity; whilst personal, her contemporary ballads contain a sense of the universal, depicting love and relationships in a way in which listeners can collectively relate. For those involved, there is fortunately the promise of much more to come. Titled Volume 1, H.E.R.’s debut appears to be just a chapter in a much wider sonic narrative. As she waits in the shadows, our intrigue and admiration only grows.
Words: Georgia Tobin