The anticipation which surrounded the announcement of a new EP by Amaarae was, upon listening very worthwhile. Amaarae’s name began swirling on my twitter timeline months ago-videos of her performances accompanied various tweets.
At first, I thought it was one of those hype team efforts at building steam for an artist who may be just average [that’s uncommon though]. But, I got baited, followed by a change of mind and heart when I watched one of her videos. That Voice. The falsetto voice is charming and luxurious. That was the gripper. Then shifting through her words, you realize her pen game is absolutely fantastic. That combination of talent in voice and writing is fully accentuated exposure on her latest project ‘Passionfruit Summers’.
The six track EP is a well knitted, pleasuring experience that transports you into a place of pure serenity and joyous pain. PassionFruit Summers is an exercise of sonic exploration and a magical trip into a world of absolute bliss.
It’s a portrait of Amaarae: a confident, bold woman who knows what she wants and isn’t scared to face her feelings.
‘The shawty with the bald head, as her twitter bio reads, assembled some of the best minds and hands in the music front in Ghana to curate the PFS. Rvdical, EDWN, MikeMillz, Dex Kwasi dug deep into their sonic vault for this project and the outcome is one that should elicit an eternal smile across their faces.
The EPs opener ‘Sundays’ uses an inviting bass guitar chords and percussion for this ‘don’t-stress-me’ tune. The picturesque view Amaarae describes is a ‘good day with palm tree breeze’ with her ‘smoking purple and drinking’ is a pleasurable experience. Bringing on board Fingers, helps bring the song ‘Home’. What stands out is how their voices blend to perfection-whether singing together or throwing in ad-libs. Her voice slices through it effortlessly, like a knife through a butter cake. Amaarae sings those low notes with easy comfort.
The EP is described as Amaarae’s parting of ‘ways with her the fear of lost love and demonstrates an undeniable lust for sonic freedom’. These themes run throughout the six tracks. Sometimes, the songs sound like a yearning for a loved one; or stuck somewhere she doesn’t want to leave. Some of the songs also feel like confessional diary entries; a showcase of her love life.
The theme is demonstrated profoundly on the sensually tinged ‘Catching A Wave’, where she sings about letting a lover go. Her opening words, ‘I think the time has come for me and you to let it go’ is uttered in a casual mode. But, there’s a sense of hurt in the lyrics that follow: ‘You changed the game I’ll not be the same, I’ll let you know’. The slow-tempo beat on which her words float serve as the perfect canvas on which she paints her pain; of wanting someone you can’t have.
The influence of songs from Ghana and Nigeria (on their respective artists) is evident on ‘Happy Mistakes’ where she does an interpolation of D’Banj’s classic ‘Oliver Twist’. ‘Happy Mistakes’, as much an oxymoron, has her crooning about her feelings towards a lover. The honesty in the lyrics, ‘sometimes, you treat me like a fool, I went crazy over you, you don’t have a clue’, is definitely proclaimed from a place of truth. The happiness that the slapping hi-hats in the first part evoke is stripped away in the second part.
As she indicated in her interview, these are real-life experiences shared over minimal, kora string beats. The second part of this song slowly builds, rising with each thump of the kick. Here, she sounds like one coming to terms with the end of the relationship. The Usher ‘U Don’t Have To Call’ interpolation is the perfect, painless closure to a satisfying encounter.
Listening to, or hearing the story behind the making of a particular track adds a ton of beauty and also, helps you appreciate the artist’s creativity. As she disclosed in an interview with Kozie on Accra based YFM, they (she and her team of producers) had to go the extra mile to create the perfect product that is Passionfruit Summers. This is how they came about creating the song Hawaii.
It took me Rvdical, EDWN and David Edem an entire day of mostly just talking about random stuff, chilling in my guest room, listening to Jerry Plange and mostly interrupting Rvdical while he was making the beat, EDWN actually came up with the melodies first. He had been singing it all day so we drove to MikeMillz’s studio and talked for another two hours, watched Ryan Leslie’s Black Mozart film while Rvdical was finishing the beat. Rvdical finished, EDWN hopped in the booth, killed it, gave me vim, hopped in right after. Boom.
‘Hawaii’, a 1 minute and 45 seconds song carries a whispery vibe. The beat and her singing rise contemporaneously, her voice sliding along the rising soundscape of the song. Her checklists what she’d do for her lover (I’ll give you all my time). The trap soul influence and sharp piano chords add to the ambiance of the song, thus encapsulating with perfection the song’s title.
On the title track of the EP, which happens to be the closing song, she enlists another incredibly gifted singer, Sutra and together steamed into the sunny summer season.
‘Passionfruit Summers’ is the perfect introduction of Amaarae to lovers of neo-soul/bluesy music, although she’s able to subtly embed few strands of trap and hip-hop influences. The EP is a trip down the clichéd memory lane-staying with the golden moments and trying to purge yourself for the sour moments. The decision to keep it at just six tracks is perfect- it doesn’t get boring. Her falsetto and her ability to hit those low notes effortlessly reminds me of Solange on her Grammy-nominated album, ‘’Seat At The Table’’.
Then again, I dare ask: Who’s Amaarae? A cross between the sublime sultriness of Jhene Aiko and a girl next door Solange? Or, she’s AMAARAE! Make your decision after listening to ‘Passionfruit Summers’ here :
This is a collaborative article written by Ibrahim Muniru through CulArtBlog.