Dennis Manuel


brittany howard’s voice is the sound of self-love

August 29, 2019
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“Oh, she has one of those voices,” a friend said when first hearing Brittany Howard at AFROPUNK Brooklyn on Sunday.

Yes, Brittany Howard, has one of those voices, a voice that is obedient to her soul and gut instincts. A voice that will seemingly fold space around you and create new dimensions if Howard wills it. Simply, Brittany Howard has a voice without limits. How she growls on songs like “Give Me All of Your Love” is a testament to how she has the kind of voice that we are blessed hear once, or maybe twice, a generation. Hers is a voice in the same ranks as Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin before her.

Howard’s sound is as limitlessness as her spirit is generous. She exercises her freedom in a way that made me consider how I might move past my own limitations. This has been the exciting thing about witnessing Brittany Howard on this ride leading up her first solo album, Jaime, and seeing her perform live at the festival.

Witnessing Brittany Howard on stage is to see someone that refuses to be imprisoned by their comforts. It was cathartic to see Howard own the stage, groans, and ad-libs and all, and leaning into her own being on centerstage singing the songs that she wrote from a place of attempting to heal oneself.

We’ve all been in situations where healing has been necessary and it had to happen alone. We desperately wanted friends and family there, but the only enlightened witness to our suffering and self-reflection has been our own reflection. We know deep down that some battles can only be fought by ourselves. This was the tone of Howard’s performance, an artist expressing through music that they are willing to be vulnerable and vocal in front of us, all by her lonesome.

Throughout Brittany Howard’s performance, I began to realize that although the voice was immaculate, it was her bravery that captivated me most. It was a bravery that I had to know in my life — admittedly not in front of thousands of people  — in order to ascend to a place where my pain and vulnerabilities serve my greatest expression. Isn’t that what living the fuck out loud is?

I turned to my friend after the performance and finally answered their comments about Howard having one of those voices and said, “Yeah, and I think we have one of those voices too if we listen to ourselves.” Perhaps, we can’t all sing like Howard but we can all learn something about our own voices and bravery through her gift.