Amaarae — The Angel You Don’t Know (Nov. 12, 2020) ♣ S výrazným hlasem a sebevědomím, prolétává průlomová hvězda afropopu tempovou fúzí alt~R&B, jižanského rapu, mall~rocku a popu Top 40. Sám Amaarae říká: „S tímto novým projektem, touto novou kapitolou mé hudební cesty se cítím tak neuvěřitelně naživu. Snažil jsem si vybarvit obraz mimo hranice afro~popových parametrů a znovu si sám definovat, co to znamená vytvořit africkou hudbu. Zvukově, vizuálně a duchovně je moje zpráva silnější, než kdy dříve. Cítím, že moje pravé já je vzkříšeno a odtud to bude jen šílenější.“
♣ Jedná se o kvalitní hudbu, ale nemusí být pro každého. Pro správné publikum bude mít opakovací hodnotu. Ale špatné publikum se už vrátit nemusí — ani po příjemném prvním poslechu. To však pranic nebude ubírat kvalitě tohoto alba, což znamená získaný (zkušenostmi nabytý) vkus.
Album release: November 12, 2020
Record Label: Platoon
01. D*A*N*G*E*R*O*U*S 0:22
02. FANCY 2:25
03. FANTASY (feat. Maesu & Ckay) 3:43
04. LEAVE ME ALONE 2:39
05. JUMPING SHIP (feat. Kojey Radical & Cruel Santino) 3:22
06. FEEL A WAY (feat. Molly & Princess Adjua) 2:35
07. TRUST FUND BABY 1:39
08. HELLZ ANGEL 2:39
09. CÉLINE (feat. Kyu Steed & 6ix) 3:01
10. DAZED & ABUSED IN BEVERLY HILLS 1:09
11. SAD, U BROKE MY HEART 2:21
12. 3AM 2:43
13. SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY (feat. Molly) 3:17
14. PARTY SAD FACE / CRAZY WURLD (feat. KZDIDIT & Odunsi) 3:53
by Owen Myers ⌊NOVEMBER 13 2020⌋ Score: 8.4 BEST NEW MUSIC
♣ Amaarae has a voice like a cracked~open chestnut shell; it can be as silky as its interior, as unforgiving as its spines. On “Hellz Angel,” a highlight from the Ghanaian~American artist’s omnivorous debut album The Angel You Don’t Know, she lattices smoke~wisp intonations before sharpening them into rapped barbs. In a spectacular flip into double~time, she raps over busted fairground synths, “I don’t make songs/Bitch I make memories.” She can’t resist following up with a gag: “I don’t like thongs/Cuz they ride up in jeans.”
♣ She is a nonchalant kind of auteur. Yet The Angel You Don’t Know crackles with innovation, a pacesetter at a time when industry bigwigs are waking up to the long~held truth that Africa is setting the global tempo for pop music.
♣ Amaarae’s music bears the Afro~fusion influences of Nigeria’s free~spirited alté scene, as well as Western genres from mall~rock to Southern rap, sultry R&B, and glossy Top 40: disparate musical styles that soundtrack Amaarae’s own life. Born Ama Serwah Genfi, she is based in Accra but has lived in the Bronx, Atlanta, and suburban New Jersey, where Britney Spears’ eccentric masterpiece Blackout blew her mind as a teen. While Ghanaian friends once advised her to stick to Afrobeats or hiplife to succeed in the country, she was firm that diasporic living enriched her art and, smartly, resisted narrowing its scope. In lesser hands, The Angel You Don’t Know’s wide embrace of genre could feel like a mash~up, or a crafty amalgam of trending styles. Yet with her distinctive arid singing voice and close work with producers like KZ and Rvdical the Kid, Amaarae’s freewheeling confidence and singular point of view allows her to swoop through sounds, light as air.
♣ She embraces character with enthusiasm, gliding between subjectivities with the same ease that she flips between American English and Ghanian and Nigerian dialect. On “Trust Fund Baby” — which sounds like Miguel’s slinky “How Many Drinks?” stripped to its skeleton — Amaarae plays a spoiled brat taunting a pathetic lover who needs the “privilege” of WAP like an addict craves their next hit. The Afropop~leaning “Jumping Ship” is an occasion for some righteous male objectification. “Hottie, you’re an item I wanna pay for,” she sings in a murmured falsetto, as picked guitars hit like sun through slotted blinds. You can hear the lusty twinkle in her eye.
♣ Amaarae describes The Angel You Don’t Know as “non stop affirmations and incantations 4 bad bitches.” Her tongue~in~cheek side brings dazzle to the record’s light~hearted moments, particularly on Afropop anthem “Sad Girlz Luv Money” (featuring Moliy), a waist~winding anthem about securing the “mooh~la~la” that’s far more joyous than its title suggests. More imaginative still is “Dazed and Abused in Beverly Hills,” 68 seconds of indie soul that enjoyably parodies (and one~ups) the SZA knockoffs making Shazam~bait for cable~TV syncs. Another track is punctuated by a ringtone and a scream, and the album is bookended by thrilling snippets of hardcore punk, with shredding by L.A. artist Gothic Tropic.
♣ Amaarae is private about her sexuality, but she dropped hints to her romantic life on the 2017 single “Fluid,” from that year’s R&B~leaning Passionfruit Summers EP, and featured drag queen pole dancers in another of her videos. These days she’s even more upfront, and rightfully heedless of gender norms. “I like it when you call me zaddy,” she purrs over 808s on “Fancy,” sounding like a soft butch poster girl looking for fresh meat. The video is a collagist tribute to seductive hits and her punk favorites, from JLo’s proto~OnlyFans camming to a Dream Wife body horror to the bright wigs and office furniture of City Girls’ “Pussy Talk.” It’s the rare moment in Amaarae’s world that doesn’t feel wholly self~created; even then, her authorial voice is clear. In one set~up referencing Missy Elliot’s “She’s a Bitch,” Amaarae wears a black leather bodysuit dotted with cowrie shells, the pre~colonial West African currency that is central to Yoruba rituals, pairing pop imagery with a touch of the divine.
♣ But even bad bitches get the blues. On the purple~hued album closer “Party Sad Face,” she’s stuck at a predictable party and fed up. “Whole lotta gang shit/Peng tings looking out of sight,” she whisper~sings, sounding helpless and sad. She fucks to fill the void, with alté star Odunsi (The Engine) breaking his usual charmer routine for an unsettling turn as an abusive hook~up. “I’m down,” she sings numbly, ambiguously. “Down for the night.” Amaarae said that she left the darkest songs off this album, but — unless she went full Diamanda Galás elsewhere — it’s hard to imagine a more vivid descent into emotional oblivion.
♣ Beyond her chameleonic roleplay, Amaarae’s humble roots are obvious — she dreams of the day she can buy her mom a Bentley. On the dancehall~leaning “Leave Me Alone,” she affirms her own worth with the calm of a zen master, singing, among bright and balmy guitars, “All the diamonds in the world don’t outshine me.” Her polyphonic approach to experimental pop brings to mind author and DJ Jace Clayton’s description of pan~global music in the digital age as a “memory palace with room for everybody inside.” Amaarae puts metabolized sounds through a distinctive prism, hitting on an insight: There’s room in the palace for her.
BY CHRIS DEVILLE, NOVEMBER 12, 2020
MOTOLANI ALAKE, Last Friday at 11:33 PM; Ratings: 8.2 / 10
By Tami Makinde ⌊November 22, 2020⌋ Score: 8.6