H.E.R.'s Poignant Protest Song "I Can't Breathe" Wins Song of the Year at the 2021 Grammys

"Remember, we are the change we wish to see," H.E.R. told the audience at the 2021 Grammy Awards

By Natalie Finn Mar 15, 2021 2:22 AMTags
Watch: H.E.R. & Tiara Thomas React to Winning Song of the Year

Seriously, some of the best music is being made at home these days. Or, more specifically, in people's bedrooms.

"I Can't Breathe," which H.E.R. wrote over FaceTime with Tiara Thomas and D'Mile, recorded alone in her bedroom at her mom's house and released on Juneteenth, was named Song of the Year at the 2021 Grammys.

"I've never been so proud to be an artist and, everyone else that was nominated, those songs to me were Song of the Year and they were all amazing," the artist, born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, told the small audience outside Los Angeles' Staples Center. But while the crowd size was considerably different than 2019, when H.E.R. made a Grammys splash as the winner of Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance for her self-titled debut, her message rang out loud and clear.

And, hopefully, still touched millions.

See the Winners of the 2021 Grammys

"I didn't imagine that my fear and that my pain would turn into impact and it would possibly turn into change," she said, "and I think that's what this is about and that's why I write music. That's why I do this, and I'm so, so grateful."

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"I want to thank God for giving me the gift of a voice and a pen," the California native continued, "and using me as a vessel to create change."

She thanked her fellow songwriters and various members of her team, as well as Mom, for lending her house to the recording process. And "my dad, he cried," H.E.R. added, "he was in tears when I wrote this song and I played it for him, he was the first person I played it for...I'm so speechless right now, I can't believe this, thank you so much."

But most importantly, she concluded, she hoped that the spirit of her song, which was released on June 19—Juneteenth, the commemoration of the date Texas finally recognized (more than two years later) the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, at last ending slavery in this country—would continue to resonate.

"Remember, we are the change that we wish to see," H.E.R. said, "and that fight that we had in us the summer of 2020, keep that same energy."

Check out E! News' 2022 Grammy Awards page for a full recap of music's biggest night.