Listening to Brittany Howard’s Stay High, it’s hard not to imagine the end of a romantic comedy. Everything comes together, the two main characters fall in love, and the credits roll. It’s upbeat, light-hearted, and you can feel yourself floating into a bubble of happiness. Yet as accurate as this comparison may be, it’s perhaps a cheesy and unfair one to draw on an artist as cool and as authentic as Howard.
With her solo debut album coined after her sister Jaime, who died in 1998 of retinoblastoma, Howard’s music has a clear heart and soul. Stay High is in fact an ode to her sister as well as her father and his love for music and its power of escapism. In the track, she explores how, although we all face the grind and hustle of working life, we can find joy and passion in things that really matter to us – which in her case, is making beautiful music. We reach great heights by doing the things we love with the people we love and it is an apt anthem for the past year, where private creative expression is all a lot of us have had.
Instrumentally, the song is rich and textured, and as Howard explains on Thao Nguyen’s “Song Exploder” podcast: “I knew immediately [the lyrics] were supposed to juxtapose how dreamy and playful and innocent and childlike the music was…to me the music is like sunlight”. Howard wants to show us that music can give us a sense of freedom, regardless of the state of the world around us, and we can find light in the darkness of it all.
Her bluesy tones on ‘Stay High’ won Best Rock Song at the Grammy Awards last week, beating both Tame Impala and Phoebe Bridgers in her victory. Whilst rock is a strange classification for a song so soaked in soul, we’re delighted that Howard’s talent has been acknowledged and celebrated.
As if the song couldn’t get any better, Stay High’s video also features the one and only Terry Crews miming to Howard’s dulcet voice. I mean… what more could you want? Watch below…
Words: Leah Montebello