Friday, May 14th, 2021

H.E.R. – Fight for You

This actually scores pretty well for an Academy-endorsed song, and yet still…


Katie Gill: In his review of the Best Original Song nominees, Stephen Thompson coined the phrase “Glorycore.” “Glorycore” describes any song that occurs right at the end credits where the lyrics are composed entirely of bland sentiments about standing strong and fighting for things, songs that basically saw Glory‘s 2014 Oscar win and went “oh hey, we can copy that.” “Fight For You” is picture perfect Glorycore. H.E.R. at least injects some funk and some fun in the song — those horns are neat. But the generic lyrics let everything down. At the end of the day, this is just an absolutely boilerplate nothing of a song designed just to get Judas and the Black Messiah an Oscar win if Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield split the votes in their category (they didn’t, thank God). It’s a winning formula: it’s generic, it’s performed by an awards show darling, and everybody knows the Academy will always go for “vaguely meaningful” over “kind of silly but surprisingly great.”

Nortey Dowuona: Ok, H.E.R. I’m gonna give you grace. This is your lane, and you do it well. I’m gonna be the only one here who likes this a great deal, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Good exit the theater music, I’m digging it.

Samson Savill de Jong: This proves you don’t need to sound angry to make a good protest song. H.E.R. is never going to go full Rage Against The Machine (although now I’ve come up with the image I’d be very intrigued to see her try), so when she’s asked to make a end credit song for a film about Fred Hampton she was always going to take it in her own direction. I’m not sure she necessarily completely fulfilled the brief of feeling “contemporary with echoes of 1968“; it’s very good 60s/early 70s pastiche, but there’s not that much contemporary sounding about it. Not that I honestly count that as a mark against H.E.R., this sounds too good regardless of when it was made. The lyrics are forceful without being overpowering, a balance H.E.R. is very good at pulling off in general. I think the outro lags a little, probably a result of being for the end credits of a film and needing to eat up the time, but it’s the only real negative to speak of.

Harlan Talib Ockey: Stop and look up a video of Fred Hampton speaking. Right now. If you’ve seen him in action, you’ll understand why it’s so infuriating that “Fight For You” — a song written from an activist’s perspective — features not only a bland, anemic vocal performance, but simplistic lyrics with not so much as a metaphor involved. The instrumental is a striking evocation of the turn of the ’70s, with the strings and crackling bassline suggesting Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, though we’re still missing some passion there too. It’s better than “Húsavík,” I guess?

Alfred Soto: Cheers for the buoyant, burbling rhythm track: Trouble Man-era Gaye, check. But H.E.R., a specialist in romantic confusion, sings too prettily and writes too windily to match a film about the exploits of Fred Hampton. She needed to write tough admonitory verses, not platitudinous quasi-romantic ones.

Edward Okulicz: This has triumph written over it. But it’s also boring. I approve of the sound, as if taken out of cold storage after 50 years, but in practice it’s also boring. The lyrics hit the right tropes, but.. you guessed it, it’s boring. Which I guess makes this an Academy Award Winner For Best Original Song.

Camille Nibungco: “Fight For You” is a BLM anthem that combines the groovy flavors of 60’s Motown and contemporary R&B of the present. Her simmering vocal cadence is akin to Alicia Keys in her Diary of Alicia Keys era. I’m personally lukewarm about the song given that I feel like H.E.R.’s artistic capacity was toned down but understand its purposeful construction as it was written for a movie soundtrack. Nevertheless, it’s an easy listen that displays the timelessness of soul.

Andrew Karpan: The early decision to bathe herself in mystery ultimately worked for Gabi Wilson, who doesn’t have hit songs but has everything else. Why do you need hits? It took Radiohead two decades to realize that all you need is just enough fans with pockets and you’ll be set for life. And the interiority works, the aversion to pop as something listened to by many. Instead, she meets the record’s needs on her own terms. The required performance of an homage is revealed as a location for intimacy, a conversion carried out in a low register. A relief compared to the thunderous nonsense of its fellow Oscar-winner “Glory,” Legend’s voice collapsing under the anxious baggage of having delivered a hit record the year before. H.E.R. will always sound like this, agitated but aware, looking across the room and sighing quietly.

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