Today’s Song: Amaarae Takes Center Stage in “FANCY”

Amaarae © @philippraheem
Amaarae © @philippraheem
In addition to its psychedelic richness, Amaarae’s “FANCY” displays a barbed wire sharpness that underscores her confidence and ease on the mic.
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Stream: “FANCY” – Amaarae

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The music video for Amaarae’s single “FANCY,” from her debut album The Angel You Don’t Know, opens with the singer wearing what looks like a latex bodysuit, leaning on a blue Aston Martin, and running her tongue along the grillz on her teeth. She’s in a seaport, surrounded by shipping containers. In several scenes, the lux Aston Martin races through the port.

FANCY - Amaarae
FANCY – Amaarae

Yet Amaarae is the center of attention no matter which way the camera pans. The 26 year old Ghanaian-American singer, real name Ama Serwah Genfi, commands such steady attention with her sharp movements that all else fades away. In the music video for “Fancy,” as well as on the single itself, Amaarae stands firmly in the spotlight, proving that she is an edgy, genre-bending virtuoso, a next-gen type of global superstar.

Over the last few years, Amaarae has emerged as one of Africa’s go-to artists for out-of-the-box music.

Amaarae is, after all, one of the pioneering purveyors of alté, a burgeoning genre of alternative African music with roots in Nigeria but fans across West Africa and beyond. Alté musicians and fans alike are united by a certain DIY, lo-fi ethos. Nevertheless, alté musicians have come to be known for their impeccable productions, from rich music videos to innovative audio work. This points to a meticulous attention to detail even as the musicians and their music continue to blur the lines between genres, styles, and themes. As one of alté’s leading artists, Amaarae, who is based in Accra, has been able to redefine what it means to make African music.

Amaarae © @philippraheem
Amaarae © @philippraheem

“FANCY” opens with a sleepy, twangy guitar riff. Amaarae’s soft voice comes in immediately, light and muted at first. “I love it when you call me zaddy,” she whispers. “Won’t you sit up in my big fat caddy?” She repeats this line in the next beat, but her voice now is clear, bold, staccato drum work announcing the song’s rhythm. In her uniquely bright voice, Amaarae invites the listener into a floating world of sensory pleasure. “We can roll it,” she sings. “I’ve got the Cali.”

In addition to its psychedelic richness, Amaarae’s “FANCY” displays a barbed wire sharpness that underscores her confidence and ease on the mic. “I’ve got smoke for whoever wan’ try me,” she sings in the first verse. Then: “On the right that’s my best friend/You don’t wanna test them.” Amaarae pivots in the next line, however, from challenge to self affirmation, saying: “Everyday I do my dance in the mirror/‘Cause I feel so damn fancy.” The chorus of the song is Amaarae repeating this bold affirmation. Fancy, fancy, fancy, fancy.

I like it when you call me zaddy
Won’t you sit up in my big fat catty?
We can roll it I’ve got the Cali
I’ve got smoke for whoever wan’ try me
On the right that’s my best friend
You don’t wanna test them
Everyday I do my dance in the mirror
‘Cause I feel so damn fancy
Fancy, fancy, fancy, fancy

Earlier this year, Amaarae announced dates for a ten-city fall tour across the United Kingdom and Europe. It’ll cap a busy few years for the artist, years that have seen her rise in the international music scene with features and interviews in magazines and radio programs across the globe. When Amaarae takes the stage, it’ll be after years of groundwork that have catapulted African acts from regional favorites to global stars. Amaarae will be representing a watershed moment not only for Afropop and alté, but for African artists as a whole. She will also be representing a new generation of female artists, women who are boldly reshaping and reimagining global pop culture.

Amaarae © @philippraheem
Amaarae © @philippraheem

In an interview with The Guardian, Amaarae, who was raised between Accra and Atlanta, credits her cross-cultural upbringing as well as an early exposure to different artistic styles for her eclectic musical outlook. Asked what she calls her own style of music, the singer refuses to be boxed in. Genres are outdated, she says. On “FANCY” and indeed throughout her debut album, The Angel You Don’t Know, listeners can hear evidence not only of her dynamic musical education, but also of her willingness to straddle worlds and sounds and influences.

Towards the end of “FANCY,” there’s a lulling interlude. In this interlude, a muted voice sings the lines, “Your light, baby you showed me/Your light came to remind/Your love came to distract us.” Amaarae has talked about wanting to elevate the voices of Black women through her music, “to present the black woman as a deity, a god.” As “Fancy” closes out after the interlude, the question of light and meaning lingers. And if the last few years are any indicator, Amaarae’s light and vision will be leading us for many more years to come.

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Stream: “FANCY” – Amaarae

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The Angel You Don’t Know - Amaarae

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