Thursday, March 7th, 2024

Brittany Howard – Prove It to You

We’re pretty convinced…

Musician Brittany Howard against a purple background, wearing shades

Alfred Soto: What the fuck. I expected pop for NPR-affiliate listeners everywhere, not this homage to Clinton-era deep house where the percussion rattles and Brittany Howard gives the kind of anonymous vocal performance of which those dance classics were made. I’m on an airplane dancing, knocking drinks over.

Katherine St. Asaph: The frontwoman of Alabama Shakes making a throbbing, explosive, furiously sung dance track, kinda like the midpoint of Prince, Depeche Mode, and classic house, about an all-consuming crush — i.e., the most Katherinebait thing imaginable — is something I never expected. The extended edit is not extended enough.

TA Inskeep: A slightly warped take on late ’90s prime-era deep house — think Masters at Work-adjacent — is easily the last thing I expected from Brittany Howard’s sophomore solo album. And she sells it, with smart, crisp production and a voice that really can seem to sing anything. I love when queer art is this good.

Harlan Talib Ockey: Music journalism is simply finding a thousand ways of saying ‘good and also catchy’. It’s Brittany Howard doing house, of all things, and the synth chirp sounds like my washing machine. I love it.

Tim de Reuse: Out from the unremarkable feel-good beat grows a strange, growling sound-animal, lashing together every other element, supporting the echoing vocals from below while filling in the dead air between bursts of gasping, airy synths. Few house-revival efforts in this day and age reach this level of sonic cohesion, filling in every frequency like a jigsaw puzzle without letting anything cover up anything else. Tropical not as in “Tropical House” (touristy, antiseptic, manicured) but Tropical as in humid, dense vegetation, a buzz of color and sensation.

Ian Mathers: As someone who’s mostly hit the heights of “well, I wouldn’t actively avoid it” with Howard’s work before (solo or in a band), turns out I like her doing skronky, lovelorn dance music a lot more. Is the whole record like this? Do I need to actually seek it out?

Nortey Dowuona: Zac Cockrell on bass, Brad Allen Williams on guitar, Lloyd Buchanan and Paul Horton on keys, Nate Smith on drums: It takes a village to execute a producer’s vision. Brittany’s vision of four-on-the-floor pop is a compelling idea, but everyone clashes against one another. She mixes alongside Shawn Everett, forcing mastering engineers Emily Lazar and Chris Allgood to compress the raging bass, the overly loud drums, the stubby keyboard stabs. The latter jabs and rips into a box to create holes so that loose, squelching sounds can slip inside. I don’t know what was proven by this, other than that Brittany cannot execute her vision, nor abandon it to establish a community.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I have been in a number of relationships where I am the one more likely to express my affection verbally. It can be rough at first to navigate, if only because underneath my love for speech is a stark reminder that it needn’t have supremacy over other modes of expression. And Jesus Christ, here is a song that makes this clear: the beat rattles and the synths roar, and Howard makes sure you can feel her passion even before she sings. “Prove It to You” is a nice three-minute reminder that we can all grow a little more sensitive to the ways we receive, well, anything from anyone.

Leah Isobel: “Prove It to You” isn’t so much a dance song as it is a rock song in dance clothing — or the other way around. While its straightforward, aerodynamic thump is conversant with house, all of its instrumentation is given a physical, earthy touch: its bass is overdriven and gritty, its kicks booming and heavy. In other hands it could come across as irritating authenticity-bait. Here, though, the effect isn’t vaguely patronizing but grand and kaleidoscopic, its momentum sourced from actual, felt urgency (“I will show you how I feel for you right now”) instead of perceived external necessity. Howard meets dance halfway; it’s kind of like love.

Reader average: [8.5] (2 votes)

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One Response to “Brittany Howard – Prove It to You”

  1. What Now is a such a show-stopper of an album that I had trouble evaluating this divorced from that context, so I couldn’t get a blurb in time. But I would’ve given it a [7] – one of the album’s weaker tracks, if you can believe that.

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