Amaarae is primed for another show of artistic brilliance with ‘Fountain Baby’

Listeners quickly learnt that in the songs of Amaarae, the woman is god.

Amaarae couldn’t have been anything but a star. Not every great artist shows promise from early years, but hers was written in the skies. Almost like a promise, she’s consistently moved towards the fullness of her potential, making proud that brave girl who first wrote a song when she was thirteen. This Friday, the anticipated sophomore album of Amaarae, ‘Fountain Baby’, will be released, introducing a new phase in the career of an artist who’s become an essential presence in the present generation, Africa or the world. 


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In Amaarae’s journey, the sensibilities of geography is important. Born to cosmopolitan parents who moved between the United States and Ghana, she was exposed to a kaleidoscope of sounds early on. The soundscape of Afrobeats might be heavily influenced by the diaspora but few artists have embodied the totality of the diverse experiences between the distinct spaces between Africa and the world. Not like Amaarae, they haven’t. Her position in the scene thus shines with this singularity. 

From the 2017 project ‘Passionfruit Summers’, it was evident that an accomplished talent had started off their journey. With six songs totalling under twenty minutes, it was a wholesome representation of Amaarae’s artistic interests. You could place the folksy elements side by side with pop music, the skittering flows of southern American rap alongside emotive croonings reminiscent of an R&B classic on a rainy night. Whether it was Afro-inspired drums on “Sundays” or a muted Trap bounce on “Hawaii”, her autotune-licked vocals were consistently brilliant in their evocative quality. 

“Passionfruit Summers” had a jazzy tenderness that would fit perfectly in a black-and-white movie, while “Catching a Wav” adapted soft shakes from what sounds reminiscent of a Ghanaian percussion, demonstrating how closely Amaarae moves to home, even with her itinerary lifestyle. “Fluid” had a lyric that can be likened to Amaarae’s sound: “I’m feeling soft, fluid”. Simple, but it’s the delivery that brings the lush vision to life, a particular set-up into the music, career and personality she would come to embody over the years. 

Beyond the music, there’s an immediate appeal in the message of Amaarae. Her entry coincided with a period where African music was pushing onto global terrain, but it was also a period of established sounds. 2017 is credited as the year afro pop (read: West African pop music) slowed down, as the likes of Maleek Berry and Mr Eazi embodied a stirring sensuality. That however spawned masculine representation; on the other side, few were creating empowering songs dedicated to women, and then Amaarae stepped up. 

In contemporary society, the importance of online media has become paramount. Where ignorance used to thrive in the dark, the awareness of millions all over the world, speaking and sharing issues in the public has made more people knowledgeable about certain things. Especially matters with institutional depth, whose secrets are eagerly pried open by people who’ve experienced similar things or have dedicated themselves to learning about them. Amaarae belongs in the second category, a subtle enforcer of all philosophies feminine and fiery, whose lucidity of thought was captured in her music.

Listeners quickly learnt that in the songs of Amaarae, the woman is god. She is the centre of the universe, and everything pulls towards her. That strength of opinion was carried with an effervescent, almost dizzying swag, so that when online communities began championing her, she was well attuned to the nature and language of those spaces. Even till this present day, Twitter—whose opinionated streaks are the bane of many esteemed musicians—is like a playing field for Amaarae: she shares pictures, tinkers with ideas, and feels sexy. 

When the alternative community began prospering within Africa, it was only right, Amaarae was heralded as one of its biggest stars. Her knack for New Media saw her leverage on interviews and appearances to strike an image so distinct, it was immediately hers. Musically, she was a ravaging force, embodying the amorphous sensibilities of the movement’s great purveyors. Little reason why she features on many unanimously great albums from alte artists, including Cruel Santino, Lady Donli, and Odunsi (The Engine). 

Because the alte culture was crystallised in Nigeria, and Amaarae was collaborating and performing with the country’s artists more than she did any other place, she was considered Nigerian. This courted a playful but revealing conversation during one of those cross-country banter. Amaarae wasn’t solely Ghanaian; she was an experience, one that would resonate anywhere with anyone, given that person has embraced the same ideals of freedom, creativity and expression—basically, being cool. 

If her stunning verse on “Rapid Fire” forced previously casual listeners to pay closer attention to her, the performances that followed after solidified her status amongst continental icons. A global takeover was imminent.

‘The Angel You Don’t Know’ is so mesmerisingly good, it’s hard to believe it’s a debut album. The form was perfect for Amaarae’s powers to expand, fitting in many artistic and personal choices. Over a carousel of brightly coloured, eccentric beats she brought the world together. In almost direct opposition to the dominant depressive themes of the SoundCloud era she grew up in, Amaarae became a fountain of joy. Because her music makes you feel like your best self, you move in level with those standards. “SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY” and its Kali Uchis-featured remix embodies this sort of intimate love for oneself. 

During the drab, unsure months of the pandemic, myself and other young men found ourselves meeting at a field, talking about recent events or doing some other stuff. It was against government law but honestly we didn’t mind much. Someone usually came with a speaker, and someone usually connected, blasting the sounds of the era. That way we didn’t miss the entry of Omah Lay as he admitted his nihilistic tendencies on “Bad Influence”, nor did we miss the zesty falsettos of Oxlade. We definitely didn’t miss the shimmering brilliance of Amaarae. 

Flouting popular expectations, I would play the most avant-garde music I knew, convinced somehow that newness would spark newness. And so one day “FANCY” came on, and from being unsure in the opening seconds, everyone was suddenly bobbing their heads. “Who sing that song?” a guy peculiarly known for his reserved nature asked. I tell him Amaarae and he nods. 

The success of ‘TAYDK’ wasn’t surprising. Yet credit must be given to Amaarae who followed up an excellent album with promotional grit and creative incursions into other pockets of culture. A young woman herself, she nurtures wholesome and rewarding friendships with other women, some who just happen to be very accomplished creatives. That network is nourished by everyone’s love for music, and so Amaarae moves with the ease of water, achieving astounding levels in her art, from the edgy fashion to the concept visuals. 

Not long after ‘TAYDK’, the seeds for ‘Fountain Baby’ were being sown. Amaarae’s rollout banked on the power of the subconscious, using the two words in social media captions and pictures. The phrase had a certain legitimacy before it came into being. And this means the words are taken from a deeper place, somewhere so unshakably true it wouldn’t lose currency even in the combative sphere of social media. 

In true style, Amaarae has led the moment up till this album well. “Reckless & Sweet” was a sweet tease of a record, pointing the artist in a direction that still utilised her strengths, but at a higher level than before. The boppy “Co-Star” was given the lead single treatment: intriguing visuals, a star-filled cast which included Deto Black, The Clermont Twins and Moyosore Briggs, and an even bigger creative room. Although featured in ‘Fountain Baby’, those songs do not capture its larger intent. It’s a crucial choice of secrecy, like how the movie trailer shouldn’t reveal the highest points of the storyline. 

“I wanted it to feel like a worldly album that takes inspiration from everywhere,” said Amaarae in the album biography which was made available to The NATIVE. Subsequently, it was an exercise in adoration and curation. From channelling divas of 2000s American pop to sampling a Japanese folk song, right to retaining that glitzy rock edge most associated with alte and keeping in-tune with the rhythmic energies of Ghana, the album bares it all. 

And so, a new era begins. ‘Fountain Baby’ is a generous act of replenishing, as Amaarae pours into the same vessels that have brought her here. Continuing the sprawling discourse on gender and identity which began with ‘TAYDK’, the sonic liquidity ensures Amaarae continues to push her craft. And through that journey, listeners would have those striking vocals and cadences, telling the most empowering stories in revealing ways, so that by the time its post-release promotion starts, one thing would be clear: Amaarae is in a league of her own.