The Academy of Country Music nominated Mickey Guyton "New Female Vocalist of the Year" in 2015, a full six years before she released her debut album, Remember Her Name. It had been four years since she signed a deal with Capitol Nashville, and she had only recently released a pair of EPs, the second containing "Better Than You Left Me," which made its way into Billboard's Country Airplay Top 40 -- enough for the nomination, enough to illustrate her enormous artistic potential, but not enough for the label to green-light a full album. Guyton wound up toiling away for the next half-decade, remaining one of the brightest potential stars in Nashville even as a completed album stayed elusive. In 2020, she finally had her breakthrough "Black Like Me," an autobiographical song about how difficult it is for a Black woman in small-town America, captured the zeitgeist in a tumultuous year filled with Black rights protests. Country radio didn't play "Black Like Me" -- not a surprise, considering how country radio in the 21st century had a long track record of not playing nearly as many women as men -- but by every other measure it was a success, snagging her a Grammy nomination and an adult contemporary hit while providing momentum for the singer/songwriter and label to finally deliver her debut album.
Remember Her Name certainly offers a continuation of "Black Like Me," both in sound and sensibility. Guyton fills Remember Her Name with vulnerable revelations and anthems of empowerment, embracing her heritage as well as inclusion, singing "ain't we all All American" on the album's second song. Guyton's specific experiences of being a Black woman in country music are a distinctly American experience, and those struggles inform the heartbreaking "What Are You Gonna Tell Her" and rousing title track. A good portion of the record is devoted to lighter songs of love, dancing, and drinking -- the topics that are country music's bread and butter -- and they showcase Guyton's versatility as a singer: she not only sounds at ease in any setting, she demonstrates warmth, vulnerability, and humor. Her warm, human delivery counters a production that is often over-cooked, pushing Guyton closer to Celine Dion territory than Shania Twain. The Adult Contemporary showing for "Black Like Me" is no fluke; much of the album would also feel at home on AC radio. If the bombast and ballads flatten the production of Remember Her Name somewhat, it nevertheless feels genuine, not calculated. Guyton is broadening and expanding the genre-bending sounds of 1990s country-pop, both through production that weaves in modern elements and her distinctive point of view. She does all this within the framework of pop music, managing to maintain her own strong personality within familiar settings without quite reinventing the form -- and that's quite an accomplishment for a debut album.