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Amaarae’s ‘Fountain Baby’: Album Review

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The very first line of Amaarae’s “Fountain Baby” clearly tells its listeners the best possible setting for the record to be heard: “In the club,” with her breathy intonations pummeling against a wall of war drums. It doesn’t let up from there: For the rest of this Ghanaian-American singer’s sophomore album, similar affirmations ring about female sexuality and shattered gender norms, continuing the themes from her 2020 debut, “The Angel You Don’t Know,” which introduced her to many fans via her first Billboard chart entry, via Kali Uchi’s remix of the album’s “Sad Girlz Luv Money.”

The album is all over the map, with a colorful sonic palette of R&B, Afropop, guitar pop and even Japanese folk. In “Sex, Violence, Suicide,” echoing, acoustic strings and Amaarae’s pitched-up vocals sing a lullaby about infatuation, but the kind that’s “Too much / Baby, you’re no good.” Like her debut, “Fountain Baby” also includes a tribute to punk ritualism that serves as the “part two” of “Sex, Violence, Suicide.” Silence for a few seconds, followed by a sigh, and then Amaarae sings: “Don’t care ‘bout what I’m asking you / Just fucking tell me yes! / Tell me I’m the one, tell me I’m the best,” with an instrumental assist from English pop rock band Dream Wife.

Amaarae tweeted about the album, “My most valued asset and biggest mistake was thinking I was Kanye West while I was making my album and sending a skeleton idea to like five producers and then picking what was best from each one.” But despite that, the album’s structure leads the listener to expect surprises and new settings for her deceptively, honeyed voice.

Some artists play by the rules, others revel in breaking them — and with “Fountain Baby,” Amaraae leaves no question to which category is hers, all while demonstrating how wide the umbrella of African pop can be. 



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