Thursday, September 6th, 2018

H.E.R. ft. Bryson Tiller – Could’ve Been

Wikipedia: “Addressing the secrecy over her identity, H.E.R. has said: ‘The mystery is a metaphor for who I am, or who I was at the time of creating the project…'”


Thomas Inskeep: This 21-year-old’s got a much older soul — her sound is so mature, bringing to mind “grown folks R&B” singers like Jill Scott. “Could’ve Been” has a molasses slowness that forces you to focus on the arrangement, the production, the lyrics. Tiller ably plays the Anthony Hamilton to H.E.R.’s Scott, and just like that: this is the next gen of R&B. 

Alfred Soto: Undeveloped mix tape introspection with Tiller’s epicene lead vocal. 

Julian Axelrod: This zero-gravity soul drift is H.E.R.’s meat and potatoes, and she deftly depicts her tale of lost love. But after nearly three minutes of buildup, Bryson Tiller’s aimless turn lets all the air out of the song. If he’s the one who got away, she’s the one who got out just in time.

Katherine St Asaph: A pleasantly atmospheric spell of brooding with no song and, besides Tiller’s slight uptick in energy, no other register. Maybe the problem’s that I have nothing to brood over.

Ian Mathers: Pleasingly amniotic enough that you kind of wish they’d gone all the way with bass-drum-as-heartbeat, and when Tiller is just slightly more forthright than H.E.R. it feels like an interruption. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: There’s a specific talent in crafting a song that doesn’t beg listeners for careful listening and can signal specific emotions through overarching moods and a monolithic sound. While H.E.R.’s very best music is capable of making the world around you disappear and having you firmly in its grip, “Could’ve Been” is more emblematic of her music thus far–lethargic, hazy, and intentionally nondescript. For this song, at least, these descriptors are affirmed by the lyrics. They don’t provoke a sadness that is outright debilitating, but a compounded disappointment that manifests in a soft, everyday depression. Bryson Tiller’s relatively dynamic vocals upend the sanctity of H.E.R.’s space of grieving. His words don’t feel like the other half of the story, but a negation of H.E.R.’s, and the sense that his feature is nothing more than a disruption grants the song surprising depth.

Reader average: [9.5] (2 votes)

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