Brittany Howard: “What Now”

Brittany Howard delivered one of 2019’s most commanding albums with Jaime, a warm, electrifying set of rock and R&B anthems that traversed grief, spirituality, self-determination, and true love. She has largely kept a low profile since, save for some Jaime re-works, a cover for a Minions movie, and this summer’s glassy single with the violinist Rob Moose. Now she returns with “What Now,” a quaking introduction to her next chapter and a sharply detailed portrait of the singer-songwriter in conflicted contemplation.

Brittany Howard opens “What Now” with a series of relationship doubts and a reluctant apology—tremors that suggest the start of a permanent fracture. She’s not here to pick a fight with her partner, but she’s tired of wondering about what deeper fulfillment lies on the other side. She hems in her restlessness with a terse, buzzy guitar melody, and within a few seconds, she dials up from a simmer to an eruption. “I don’t have love to give you more/You’re fucking up my energy/I told the truth so set me free,” she growls in the meaty chorus, liberated by the truth. As Howard muscles through the briars of her consciousness, climbing atop a plinth of chugging bass and percussive skitter, she seems to answer her own questions. By the end of the song, she isn’t sorry anymore.