Album Review

Mickey Guyton - Remember Her Name

Not your run-of-the-mill country album by any measure, Mickey Guyton has stepped up and grabbed her moment in the spotlight here. Exploring everything from romance and abandonment to self-esteem and social justice, Remember Her Name is a milestone record.

Mickey Guyton - Remember Her Name Album Cover

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It’s long overdue, but finally, it feels like Mickey Guyton’s time has come.

A decade ago, she was performing at the White House along with Darius Rucker and Kris Kristofferson. Six years ago, she was dubbed one of the ‘10 Hot Country Artists to Watch’ as her debut single ‘Better Than You Left Me’ buzzed around the airwaves. Even then, true success never came.

But it wasn’t until last year when she returned with her song ‘Black Like Me’ – a song less prompted, more exasperated by the killings of Breana Taylor and George Floyd - something clicked for Guyton.

Now, her debut album Remember Her Name arrives, a 16-track tribute to Taylor. Guyton says the frustration that she’s felt as an African American has been a part of her writing process for a while, which is why she’s dedicated the record to her, giving Taylor “the justice that she deserves.” In that process, Guyton has delivered a record to treasure and replay.

Guyton seamlessly entwines facets of her life into the record; passionate notions of love and understanding weave amongst the unending fight for racial and social justice. The title track reflects her commitment to the cause; her soulful voice ringing out above a wash of guitars.

The instant classic ‘Black Like Me’s piano sound is made to be an anthem, as she sings of being a little kid in a small town, who did her best to fit in, despite being told she was different in the playground.

She observes that, even though she’s all grown up now, nothing has changed; “it’s a hard life on easy street / just white-painted picket fences as far as you can see”. It’s stark and bruising; “if you think we live in the land of the free / you should try to be black like me”.

Guyton cleverly subverts the classic tribute to America with ‘All American’. Collecting together all the things that make supposedly make America great, from the small town, football game, jukebox namechecks, she twists as she questions why everyone can’t be treated equally within’ “Ain’t we all, all American?”

One of the most heartfelt songs on the record, ‘Love My Hair’, is a gentle yet insistent ballad, touching on something both personal and universal for Black women. She’d like to go back and reassure her 12-year-old self that everything would be alright, ostensibly writing a love song to her own hair, but in reality, it’s about learning to love everything about yourself. She sings of “the things I do to try to fit right in / I’m tired of trying to justify my skin” before going into detail about braiding her hair “just to hide the curls up there”.

You can feel her anguish even more on ‘What Are You Gonna Tell Her?’ a stark, passionate ballad about how the deck is simply stacked against some people and, as much you can try to insulate the next generation from the harsh truth, they’ll find out soon enough when the world lets them down. It’s Guyton’s wake-up call, and it’s quietly devastating.

In notions of romance, Guyton jumps around all the stages of courtship; from passionate honeymoons to plainly being dumped. The pounding drums and explosive arrangement of 'Higher' reflect the way her man lights her up “like the fourth of July”. ‘

Dancing in the Living Room’ manages to exude intimacy, romance and soul even over a generic, click-track accompaniment. ‘Different’ is J-Lo sassy and finger-clicking good; defiant and proud in being different, Guyton argues how she doesn’t want to fit in in a cookie-cutter way, as the music skips irresistibly.

Not your run-of-the-mill country album by any measure, Mickey Guyton has stepped up and grabbed her moment in the spotlight here. Exploring everything from romance and abandonment to self-esteem and social justice, Remember Her Name is a milestone record.

8.5/10.

Mickey Guyton's debut album, Remember Her Name, is out 9/24 via Capitol Records Nashville.