Singer Amaarae Discusses Her New Music and Tours With Childish Gambino and Sabrina Carpenter

This summer, Amaarae is finishing what she started.

The Ghanaian American singer released “Fountain Baby,” her second album and a breakout hit, to critical acclaim in June 2023. But despite landing on countless “best of 2023” lists, there was one list that evaded her: the Grammy nominations. With the release of “Roses Are Red, Tears Are Blue — A Fountain Baby Extended Play,” she’s optimistic that a different story will play out this year.

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“Last year, ‘Fountain Baby’ got snubbed for the Grammys and I know that this year we’re eligible because it’s a new kind of project,” she says on the day of the EP’s release. “It’s just something that I really wanted, and I was kind of disappointed that it didn’t happen last year. But I feel like it’s something that’s within reach this year.”

The honesty is refreshing, and the ambitious singer, on the cusp of her 30th birthday, is equally candid when discussing her process as a songwriter and performer. She started out as a DJ, and curation — of collaborators, music genres and which tracks make it onto an album — is central to her creative approach. The new EP was originally conceived as “two remixes and a new song,” but she ended up making so many new tracks that the project became a larger encore for “Fountain Baby.”

“It’s really the ending of the story,” she says of the catchy six-track concept, a sonic blend of pop, R&B and Afrobeats, which features vocal contributions from Naomi Sharon and 6lack. “The ‘Fountain Baby’ album is so chaotic, and it’s also rooted in this reckless youth and this really tumultuous love story,” she continues. “At the end of the day, the realization that I came to is: the love story wasn’t with anyone else but myself. What I really love is that this capsule really ties that up really beautifully, where it’s like, you’re caught up in a storm of a life that’s moving fast, and you’re caught up in someone else. At the end of the day, it’s nice to come back to yourself.”

Amaarae, who recently walked for Vogue World, is currently in Paris ahead of her Saturday tour performance at the Hippodrome Paris-Vincennes. This fall, she’ll continue to tour as an opener for Sabrina Carpenter and Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover. She’s a featured singer on four tracks from Glover’s upcoming album, and notes their similar fan bases — “weird alt kids” — whereas opening for Carpenter will present her an opportunity to speak to a new audience.

“Her and I are two opposite sides of the spectrum. She’s this alt-pop sweet girl, and I’m this in your face, balls-to-the-wall, Black alt girl,” says Amaarae, who’s been credited as a trailblazer in the West African Alté music genre. “The challenge that I’m probably going to be presented with is, how do I take what I do and make it make sense for her audience, but also bring them into my world in the best way possible?” she adds. “That’s the one that I’m really looking forward to, because I think it’s going to push me to really think about performance art.”

She credits Janet Jackson and Tom Ford Gucci campaigns as visual references for her recent music videos: sleek, stylish and inclusive. “I love to create a world in which girls see themselves, and in the sexiest way possible,” Amaarae says. A few days before the EP debut, Amaarae released a short video for the first track, “sweeeet,” which opens with a close-up shot of the singer lounging on a bed and slowly pans out to reveal the body of a naked woman.

“When I think about where I’m from [Ghana], it’s a very daring thing to do to juxtapose two women in that type of position and to even start that type of conversation. But I always try to do it in a tasteful and in a sensual and clean way,” she says, describing her approach to “sweeeet.” “It’s also to open the minds of the people that are watching me, that are listening to me, that are learning about me. But then also — sometimes you just do s–t just because it’s sexy and it’s fun.”


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