• Stuart Large

Meet 'the Angel you don't know' from Accra

The Angel You Don’t Know - Amaarae

2020 - Golden Child Entertainment

4/5 stars

The latest album from the Ghanian-American singer/songwriter is her second album, following her six track EP Passionfruit Summers released in 2017. You might think that’s a sedentary pace to be running at, however Amaarae has released a bunch of ‘non-album’ singles in-between and no doubt imported a stack more artist and producer contacts onto her iPhone as a result.

Compared to her debut outing, The Angels You Don’t Know is more feisty, confident and experimental than the former. In fact to understand Amaarae and even attempt to label her music, you need to consider how she has carefully and methodically fused her Ghanian influences, with her US base in Atlanta to give her music authenticity and widespread commercial appeal.

Apple music named her ‘Africa’s Favourite New Artist’ in 2018 which makes her even harder to label. R&B or Lounge doesn’t do it justice. Afro-Pop is the category on I-tunes, I would be so bold to say it’s more Fela Kuti than Burna Boy, but recommend just to listen and go with the energy. Tracks one and two aren’t compelling, the first one being a prologue, but then Fantasy leaves its mark as does the next, Leave Me Alone, with the worldly-wise lyric ‘talking, talking, talk when talk is cheap’ which may be a dig at the institutions in Africa about their inaction for its own people. Jumping Ship is another well constructed song featuring collaborators Kojey Radical & Cruel Santino and now the album starts to take shape. Amaarae is no shrining violet, she has endorsed the use of Androgyny in music videos in native Africa as a form of expression and got herself included in a Vogue magazine article spotlighting women with ‘buzz’ haircuts in 2018.

Celine is the closest you’ll get to a love song with its deft of touch in Amaarae’s falsetto voice and catchy lyrics. There’s undeniable talent here in the songwriting and the vocal is not upfront on many of the tracks which is her style, and the appositely titled 3am is telling us something, this album might be indexed in the ‘late night/early morning’ category. That said, her voice is tinged with a little sadness which draws you in further with each listen. It’s reminiscent of Sade in places, with a subplot happening underneath the lead vocal which is used in proportion and not overdone.

Overall this is a credible, mature and very listenable album from an up and coming artist, although time will tell how much appetite there is for downtempo after-hours music. So far Amaarae has been courageous beyond her years, let’s see if that continues.

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