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One of the most acclaimed R&B artists since 2016, the year her first EP found a rapt audience, H.E.R. has been celebrated for vulnerable yet assured love ballads and sharp protest songs alike. The singer/songwriter maximizes the power of her honeyed vocals as a simultaneously poetic and straightforward lyricist, shifts to convincing MC mode on a dime, and is also a guitarist and producer. H.E.R. (2017), I Used to Know Her (2019), and Back of My Mind (2021), her three full-length recordings, have each featured platinum singles, including "Focus," "Could've Been," and "Damage." She has won four Grammys, most notably Song of the Year for "I Can't Breathe" (2020). "Fight for You" (2021), her contribution to the soundtrack Judas and the Black Messiah, made her an Academy Award winner for Best Original Song. A desired collaborator across genres, H.E.R. has scored supplemental hits as a co-writer and guest vocalist on Daniel Caesar's "Best Part," YG's "Slide," and Skip Marley's "Slow Down." The Bay Area native debuted under the anonymously presented guise of H.E.R., short for Having Everything Revealed, in September 2016. A seven-track EP issued on major-label RCA, H.E.R., Vol. 1 received limited promotion, but formative influence Alicia Keys, as well as Bryson Tiller -- also RCA artists -- spread the word through social media. A cover of Drake's "Jungle" attracted additional early attention. "Focus," a trap-styled yearning ballad H.E.R. wrote with Justin Love and co-producer Darhyl Camper, Jr., soon became the singer's first hit. It peaked on Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart at number 45 and earned H.E.R. the first of her many gold and platinum certifications from the RIAA. H.E.R. Vol. 2, a similarly styled follow-up, arrived in June 2017. Within four months, the two EPs were combined, expanded, and re-released as H.E.R. One of the additional cuts was "Best Part," a multi-platinum duet with Daniel Caesar that originally appeared on Caesar's album Freudian. H.E.R.'s beneficial collaborations continued in mid-2018 with "This Way," recorded with Khalid for the soundtrack to Superfly. That August, she issued I Used to Know Her: The Prelude, which went straight to the top of the R&B/hip-hop chart -- and to number 20 on the Billboard 200 -- thanks to the Bryson Tiller duet "Could've Been." I Used to Know Her, Pt. 2, featuring the single "Hard Place," was out in November. Also by the end of the year, she was nominated for five Grammy Awards: Album of the Year and Best R&B Album (for H.E.R.), Best R&B Performance (for "Best Part"), Best R&B Song (for "Focus"), and Best New Artist, one of the Big Four categories. At the ceremony the following February, she took home the prizes for Best R&B Album and Performance. H.E.R.'s range of collaborators continued to widen as she was a featured artist on songs by the likes of Chris Brown, Ella Mai, and Ed Sheeran. This activity primed H.E.R. for the August 2019 release of I Used to Know Her, which bundled the EPs from the previous year and added a batch of fresh material. Shortly after she joined YG on the multi-platinum hit "Slide" and contributed to Skip Marley's "Slow Down," the Recording Academy acknowledged her again with five more Grammy nominations. "Could've Been" was up for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. "Hard Place" was nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The parent LP was among the nominees for Album of the Year. Although only two tracks were released by H.E.R. as a lead artist in 2020, the singer made them count. First was "I Can't Breathe," a protest song coinciding with Juneteenth and nationwide demonstrations against police brutality, followed by the Grammy-nominated "Damage," a slow jam based on Herb Alpert's Jam & Lewis-produced "Making Love in the Rain." More often, she was a featured guest, as heard on Jhené Aiko's platinum "B.S." and Toni Braxton's "Gotta Move On," and she also fronted Robert Glasper's "Better Than I Imaged," supported by Meshell Ndegeocello. "I Can't Breathe" and "Better Than I Imagined" won respective Grammys for Song of the Year and Best R&B Song. Important projects and major featured appearances, as well as accolades, kept coming in 2021. The Grammy-nominated "Fight for You," which played over the end credits of Judas and the Black Messiah, won that year's Academy Award for Best Original Song. Additionally, she guested on Jazmine Sullivan's Heaux Tales and DJ Khaled's Khaled Khaled, and released "Come Through," another collaboration with Chris Brown. In June, she released Back of My Mind, her first proper studio album. "Slide," "Damage," and "Come Through" appeared on the set, as did collaborations with Thundercat and Kaytranada ("Bloody Waters"), Lil Baby ("Find a Way"), and Ty Dolla $ign ("Back of My Mind"). It entered the Billboard 200 at number six. Throughout the front half of 2022, H.E.R. guested on tracks by artists like Chris Brown, Saweetie, and Mary J. Blige before contributing a solo cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music" to the soundtrack of the animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru. "The Journey" appeared in 2023.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo


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