Brittany Howard gets the recognition she deserves with Grammy nods for ‘Jaime’ release

The Alabama Shakes frontwoman is up for x Grammys for her eclectic solo album

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Singer/songwriter Brittany Howard, 32, has already received accolades and awards as the frontwoman for the band Alabama Shakes. The group, which formed in high school in Howard’s native Alabama, has taken home four Grammys in nine nominations. But this time, Howard is out front on her own, becoming one of this year’s top nominees for her debut solo album Jaime.

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Released in 2019, describing Jaime, named after Howard’s late sister, as eclectic is misstating its wealth of influences. Like the Shakes and her other bands Thunderbitch and Bermuda Triangle, Jaime defies genre and easy description. To that point, Howard is nominated in four different categories for the album – R&B, Rock, Alternative Music, and American Roots, as though even her fellow musicians couldn’t pigeonhole her into one category.

Brittany Howard
UNSPECIFIED – MARCH 11: In this screengrab released on March 11, Brittany Howard performs during the Pandora LIVE Countdown to the GRAMMY Awards on March 11, 2021 in the United States. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Pandora)

What is agreed upon across the board is the power of Howard’s emotive vocals and heartfelt songwriting.

She told EW last year that despite previous Grammy wins, the nods for Jaime were extra special. Her sister died in 1998 of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye mostly found in young children.

“This [album] is something I did on my own, which for me took a lot of personal courage. Walking away from something that works to explore something with a lot more personal, deeper meaning is scary. Of course, I didn’t really get to tour behind the record because of the pandemic, so it’s been this really odd release, but I’m really proud of it.”

Howard told NPR in 2019 that coming to terms with making a solo album took time due to the success of the Shakes, who’ve released two critically acclaimed albums since their 2012 debut Boys & Girls.

Brittany Howard
Brittany Howard performs onstage during the 2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel on February 06, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

“‘Do I want to do this solo record that I’ve always wanted to do since I was, like, 11 years old when I first picked up the guitar? Or am I going to keep trying to make more Shakes records?'” Howard told NPR. “At the time, when I was rehearsing with the Shakes, it was really not coming to us… The music wasn’t really coming through. So, when I stepped away from that, that’s when things started coming through.”

Howard is nominated for three different songs from Jaime – Rock Performance and Rock Song for “Stay High” R&B Performance for “Goat Head” American Roots Performance for “Short and Sweet” and Alternative Music Album for Jaime. She says that she’s gratified that her music resonated for Grammy voters across musical categories.

“The thing I was most excited about, honestly, is one album being nominated for so many different genres,” Howard told EW. “That’s really unusual. That’s exactly how I wanted it to go, because I like all kinds of music and I create my music just with whatever I’ve heard before.”

That Jaime with its themes of identity, poverty, racism, grief, and spirituality touched so many is ironic given what happened after its release. Howard is biracial and grew up in Athens, Alabama. She told NPR that the song “Goat Head” is based on the time her Black father came to visit her mother at an Alabama apartment complex. When he went out to his car the next morning, someone had placed a goat head in the vehicle, broke the windows, and slashed his tires. Written on the goat was a message not to return.

“I wrote “Goat Head” before everything popped off, so I think it’s really important to note that these issues have been going on the entire time, whether it’s on the national news or not,” she told EW. “I’m glad it was brought to light, and I’m glad the Black Lives Matter movement has garnered a lot of attention — both good and bad, but necessary for its very important message. I just feel like I’m more honored to even have a voice after such a harrowing year. I’m really proud.”

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Howard will perform on this year’s show, but no announcement of what song she’s doing or with who has been released.

The Grammys, hosted by Trevor Noah, will air on Sunday, March 14 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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