Just a day after winning two Grammys, renowned R&B artist H.E.R. earned her first Oscar nomination. The nom came in recognition of her original song “Fight for You,” which she penned and performed for Warner Bros. Pictures’ Judas and the Black Messiah.
For H.E.R., the recognition on the part of the Academy means the world. “I couldn’t believe it. You know, I feel like I’m part of history, I’m making history, and I’m doing what I love. So, it’s all really a blessing,” she told Deadline. “To be spreading such an important message, and hopefully, leading this generation into some changes, I pray that’s what I’m doing.”
From the artist’s perspective, both Judas and its “uptempo, soulful” end title track arrived at just the right time. “It’s the perfect time because in 2020, we had to be still, and we witnessed very hurtful, very painful videos online. We were protesting, and I think people really realized that it’s time for change. This is a time for everybody to be more aware, really starting to actively make these differences,” she said. “I’d heard about the story of Fred Hampton before, but I didn’t know all the details. So, this is part of us being educated and aware of our history, because you can’t understand today without understanding yesterday.”
Co-written and directed by Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the American activist who rose to fame in 1960s Chicago, as chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. Viewed by the FBI as a threat to the United States, Hampton’s life ends in tragedy, after criminal-turned-informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltrates the organization.
Today, the film really and truly did make history, as H.E.R. mentioned. Upon the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominations, it became the first film backed by an all-Black team of producers to be nominated for Best Picture. With both Kaluuya and Stanfield nominated for Best Supporting Actor, the film is the first where two Black male actors have been recognized for the same film. Boasting nominations in a total of six categories, with 10 individuals represented, it now also holds the record for the most Black nominees tied to one film. The previous record holder in this respect was Steven Spielberg’s 1993 drama, The Color Purple, which saw seven Black artists nominated.
“I’m just so proud of all these Black people being recognized for their hard work. It’s very rare, and I’m so happy for the diversity and the inclusivity,” H.E.R. said of the film’s achievements. “Everything that we’re doing and being recognized for, it’s a blessing and it’s overdue.”
Born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, H.E.R. shares her nom for “Fight for You” with Dernst Emile II, who is credited on the music side, and lyricist Tiara Thomas.
Naturally, the rising star has plenty more exciting projects currently in the works. “I have an album coming out, hopefully at the end of spring. I’ve been working on it for a few years now, and…it’ll be my first official album,” she said. “I have a reggae EP that I’ve been working on that’ll be coming out soon as well, so there’s a lot of different projects.”
At present, H.E.R. also hopes to bring her music festival—the Lights On Festival—back to the Bay area, where she grew up. When the festival kicked off in 2019, H.E.R. became the first woman to own her own festival, blazing yet another trail at just 22 years of age.
Yesterday, at the Grammys, H.E.R. won Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe,” beating out the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Roddy Ricch, Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, JP Saxe and Julia Michaels. Additionally, she won the award for Best R&B song with “Better Than I,” which she shared with Robert Glasper and Meshell Ndegeocello.
At this year’s Oscars, “Fight For You” will contend opposite songs from The Life Ahead, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and One Night in Miami. Nominees for “Io Sì (Seen),” from The Life Ahead, include Diane Warren and Laura Pausini. Noms for “Hear My Voice,” from Trial, are Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite. The writers of “Husavik,” from Eurovision, include Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson. And finally, there’s Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashworth, who will represent Miami with their song, “Speak Now.”
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