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Brittany Howard Shakes Things Up With WHAT NOW

The vocal power-house drops an early contender for album of the year. 

by Stephan Boissonneault

Brittany Howard is a powerhouse in this musical age. That is just a fact. Be it her work with the Grammy-winning southern soul-rock group, Alabama Shakes, her solo work, or collaborations with the likes of Paul McCartney, Howard is beginning to resemble something of a modern-day Nina Simone. 

The latest album, WHAT NOW—a long-awaited follow-up to her 2019 debut, Jaime—only adds to her list of accolades and cements her mastery over vocal ranges and shifting musical tastes. Expanding her sonic palette, she now sometimes sounds like modern dream pop or freak-out psych soul, a la Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! era.

This album jumps between avant-jazz passages, powerful and percussive gospel soul, and rifftastic funk rock, making for a wonderfully enjoyable bounty. The year may have just started, but WHAT NOW is going to be a hard contender to beat for album of the year.

Howard’s voice is always leading the charge on tracks like “Red Flags,” “Patience” and the title track, which will make you shake your head in awe and disbelief when you hear her earth-shattering falsettos. “Another Day” has a hypnotic D’Angelo flair, always remaining funky, while “Prove It To You” feels more like a modern clubhouse banger and “Samson” has a gorgeous and free trumpet solo. 

Taking the job as co-producer alongside Shawn Everett (SZA, The War on Drugs), Howard knows exactly what she is doing. On top of her impressive voice, her need for sonic experimentation is her greatest musical asset. So what now? Whatever you want, Brittany Howard. Whatever you want.