about the artist
"I want every cool-girl in the entire world to want to play this music," Amaarae declares, defining the coolest people as the risk takers and the future-seekers, who dare and predict and challenge whether they have a million followers or a hundred. 10 seconds into the intro of Fountain Baby, you're already gripped and transported to somewhere distinct, unexpected and distant. The Eastern-infused, soaring orchestral introduction of 'Moametal,' makes clear her unpredictable yet global ambitions from the jump. "I wanted it to feel like a worldly album that takes inspiration from everywhere," the 28-year-old artist born Ama Serwah Genfi explainsMore
"I want every cool-girl in the entire world to want to play this music," Amaarae declares, defining the coolest people as the risk takers and the future-seekers, who dare and predict and challenge whether they have a million followers or a hundred. 10 seconds into the intro of Fountain Baby, you're already gripped and transported to somewhere distinct, unexpected and distant. The Eastern-infused, soaring orchestral introduction of 'Moametal,' makes clear her unpredictable yet global ambitions from the jump. "I wanted it to feel like a worldly album that takes inspiration from everywhere," the 28-year-old artist born Ama Serwah Genfi explains of the follow up album to her critically-acclaimed kaleidoscopic debut. "For anyone to feel like they can relate to it and like it."
Raised on her very own diet of cool-girls past, with the intention of creating a uniquely global yet distinctly pop project, Amaarae turned to her own playlist of her all-time favourite seminal pop songs for the blueprint. Whether that's Missy Elliott, Janet Jackson, Nelly Furtado, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Rihanna, Ciara, Whitney Houston or Sinead O'Connor. "The coolest thing about them is how experimental they are," she raves of pop culture giants like 'I'm a Slave 4 U' by Britney Spears, 'Got Til It's Gone' by Janet Jackson, 'Cool' by Gwen Stefani or 'Give It 2 Me' by Madonna. "They took sounds that are out of context within what the kind of American pop canon [was] and brought that world to the American people. I would like to do the same, bring the sounds of the world to the people of Africa first and the entire globe second."
And redefining pop in that way for a new generation is precisely what she wants to do with her music: "I've been adamant about calling this a pop album because I feel like it's extremely damaging to African artists to continue to box everything we do into the Afrobeats category. There's so much creativity, experimentation and nuance to different types of artists. The only way for us to push forward is to start to define our music for ourselves."
Recorded between London, Accra and LA, weaved together into a whirlwind 40 minutes are an entire planet of sounds, with 'Wasted Eyes' as a standout of that avant-garde global pop approach. Featuring a string intro recorded with a 13-piece London orchestra and a Japanese folk song 'Battaki' by Umeko Ando reinterpreted by modern Japanese vocalists and kora player for the album, it's a full-bodied, textural fanfare of East Asia meets West Africa accented by horns and gunfire. 'Sex, Violence, Suicide Part 2' is a thrashing, irreverent punk rock detour about getting her way that channels equal parts Sex Pistols and Bikini Kill. While tracks like 'Aquamarie Luvs Ecstasy,' 'Reckless & Sweet' and 'Big Steppa' skirt closer to traditional roots as expertly arranged infectious grooves infused with African drum beats and jazz embellishments. The list goes on. A flamenco player from Spain, a harpist from France, a rock quartet from Los Angeles, a group of African percussionists who create their own instruments.
Throughout the intricately layered project, alongside her executive producers KZ Didit, Kyu Steed and Yves Rothman, Amaarae has been a master architect of her own specific brand of cultural alchemy, honing the language with which she communicates the vision in her head to collaborate and translate it into a real world creation. For example on 'Counterfeit,' being able to utilise a Senegalese folk instrumentalist to reimagine surf rock rhythms on the bridge or researching the vocal compressors and microphones used in her favourite pop songs to harness the textures and nuances of the world's most pervasive genre.
From its title to its sonic and lyrical fluidity, water as a theme and a source runs through this entire project. Amaarae says, "Fountain Baby is about having an endless flow of inspiration and swag to give to others, and also being an abundant child of God too." As a double water sign herself (Cancer with a Pisces Rising), it's no surprise that she's drawn to the world's most ubiquitous element: "I love the duality of water and how it can give you sustenance, it can give you protection, it can even be an act of love. But it can also be very volatile and can cause turmoil. It's hard to lock water down and really understand it. I love that mystery." Her description of it mirrors her own artistic versatility on this project too, riding the tension between her trademark softly sugared vocals versus the subversive lyricism and the fearlessly experimental, sharp production.
Visually, fashion has always bled into Amaarae's world too, with a father who manufactures and sells fabrics and a mother with an enviable shoe collection, she grew up loving clothes as yet another mode of self-expression and world-building. Whether that's putting together an intro like she'd assemble the perfect fit or digging through the archives or IG for inspo. "This album especially has really been built around iconic '90s and 2000s fashion campaigns and how detailed they were in expressing a real sexiness, a real sensuality, a real sense of ownership of oneself." Campaigns by the likes of Dior, Tom Ford x Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana with Gisele, having particular impact.
And although the references were vintage, that language of self-assurance has been translated into something unmistakably modern on Amaarae's upcoming project. Whether that's the featherlight disco interlude of 'Sociopathic Dance Queen,' or an entire track dedicated to horoscopes with 'Co-Star' or the reexamining of religious imagery in a newly liberated context on 'Water To Wine' and 'Come Home to God.' The former being a tinglingly sensual ode to connection as she pleads sweetly 'shake it, don't break it' and the latter Amaarae explaining frankly as "a record about an emotionally wrecked stripper. But the whole thing that it keeps coming back to is that no matter what this girl goes through, she still comes back home to God, she still comes back home and prays and hopes."
On Fountain Baby, she's seeking to stretch the boundaries further on topics at the heart of today's generation too, especially as a young African woman. "I do consider myself an extremely spiritual person but my expression or how I view spirituality and even religion can sometimes be a social experiment, to see if I can push my African listeners further than the things they want to believe. Having that discussion through the music is really my way of trying to push us to be unafraid of the possibilities of what the religion that [we've] been taught could be, outside of [our] own fears." And when it comes to sexuality, sensuality and gender, Amaarae is similarly daring. "My real mission is for us to not think about sexuality, or to subvert it so much to the point where it subconsciously takes people away from that… I wanted to make the music so sexy and captivating that you kind of wouldn't think about what pronouns I was using, no matter if you are straight, gay, pansexual, whatever. That was my way of trying to slowly break that boundary that things have to be in boxes, and have to be confined and defined." Once again, using her contagiously feel-good music as a vehicle for freer bodies, minds and hearts, Amaarae takes us on an extraordinary sonic journey, this time with her sights set on the world.