Ghanaian-American singer Amaarae is currently going viral. Tiktok counts a million videos posted featuring her song, ‘Sad Girls Luv Money’ as of the 10th of November. Despite the song, which is featured on her debut album The Angel You Don’t Know, being first released last year, its success has been recently propelled by a remix featuring Kali Uchis released in September 2021.
Amaarae, consistently commercially focused, is openly tracking her success. Almost daily, she retweets the exponential growth of her streaming numbers posted by eagle-eyed fans, manifests aspirational purchases and posts words of affirmations and gratitude to her new listeners. Amaarae has a calm self-assurance about her which features in most of her lyrics, and this, paired with the silky-sweet whisper tone of her voice, has earned her a cult following of fans – who include Drake, Azealia Banks and Kendall Jenner.
When I first discovered Amaarae in July, it felt like I had struck gold. A beautiful voice singing about sex, money, women, love and partying over a seamless blend of Afro-pop beats – I felt seen. I knew that if I was discovering her and resonating with her music, I couldn’t be the only one. Like any fan knows, this brings about a confusing concoction of emotions – a buzz of both excitement and completely irrational protectiveness.
As I predicted, by October Amaarae was well and truly blowing up. Nominated for a MTV European Music Award and coming off the back of a successful North-American tour with fellow afro-pop darling Tems, Amaarae was on her way to the UK, and after 3 months of anticipation, I was ready to see her.
SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY
On the 1st of November, drenched in rain after a brisk power walk up Oxford Road, I arrived at the venue at 7.30, just as doors were about to open. In just under 2 hours, Amaarae was due to perform at The Pink Room at YES, a space which was as intimate as it was vibrant, perfect for Amaarae and the audience she attracts.
The room was bleached buzz cuts, rainbow coloured crop tops and septum rings galore. I spotted plenty of familiar faces. One of them looked remarkably like Amy Winehouse protege Dionne Bromfield, and when I checked her Instagram later, I saw that Dionne had posted a handful of stories with the Manchester geotag, and that Amaarae is one of the 400 people she followed.
Local act DJ Scapa set the vibe in the pink room with a fresh blend of Amapiano, Azealia Banks, Masego and Kaytranada. The energy in the room was already teeming with excitement, the crowd hollered in unison when a funky afrobeat bassline began. From the looks of that room, you couldn’t tell it was a Monday night.
“Giving Avril Lavigne!”
At around 9:15, Amaarae’s 3-piece band crashed into the album’s opening track ‘D*A*N*G*E*R*O*U*S’, heavy on the drums and electric guitar. Not long after, Amaarae appeared in an Adidas jumpsuit and pink bra with a deafening roar from the crowd. Amaarae herself seemed shocked by the response, giggling as she pored over the crowd and positioned herself. When she began ‘Fancy’, we all sang it for her. At one point, I even screamed “Giving Avril Lavigne!” deliriously. ‘Fantasy’’s grooving and sensual rhythm evoked a similar response, and it was at this point I realised that I had made a grave mistake wearing a turtleneck!
As ‘Leave Me Alone’’s melody began, Amaarae lent us some words of advice along the lines of “if the sex is sh*t and they don’t give you money, they better leave you the f**k alone”. Though it was only the second song she had performed, it was at this point Amaarae tells the audience that Manchester had been her littest concert to date.
Next, Amaarae crooned through ‘Jumping Ship’, adding in a slow and sexy rendition of ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child. It’s just the right song to blend into the endlessly seductive ‘Celine’, where Amaarae sings about making the subject ‘mon ami’, who she tries to woo with her blossoming fame. It was during this song that she asked someone to come up to sing with her. When the audience was initially hesitant, Amaarae took it in her stride, and seemingly unphased, giggled, “No takers?”
When someone eventually bounded up on stage, this seemed to be the peak of the concert. As she rolled into the playful Tierra Whack-infused ‘Hellz Angel’, I was unsure if she would be able to bring the energy back up. Perhaps in an attempt to recreate the moment, once again Amaarae invited someone on stage to vibe through ‘Trust Fund Baby’’s catchy tongue in cheek hook:
“Trust fund baby with this p***y, n***a, You should feel privileged!”
‘Dazed and Confused in Beverly Hills’, which has synth and guitar instrumentals reminiscent of a Tame Impala or Mac Demarco song, is where we hear the full extent of Amaarae’s distinctive voice. The song is gentle, dainty, hopelessly romantic, and compliments Amaarae’s silky falsetto. Fan favourite ‘Feel a Way’ quickly reverts the crowd back to the waist-winding and grinding. Its brash lyrics, afro-pop beat make it the type of song you’d hear at a Savage x Fenty show. It set the tone for the final song, viral hit ‘Sad Girls Luv Money’, during which a member of Amaarae’s entourage (seemingly to her surprise) began throwing dollars at both Amaarae and the audience.
When she left, it felt abrupt. Most of the buzzing crowd did linger, expecting an encore. Me and a group of girls in the front row did our own rendition of ‘Sad Girls Luv Money’, rocking in unison as we sang, “to the left, to the right, to the front with it oh, yeah yeah yeah”. We hung around for another ten minutes, but when venue staff began to clear microphones and instructed us to start making our way out we admitted defeat. As we left, I heard someone say “What the f**k, that was so short”, and it definitely felt that way. Nevertheless, Amaarae had performed most of the songs on her debut album and gave us a stellar show.
At work the next day I am miserable – a mixture of post-concert blues, a light hangover, and a lack of sleep contribute. It’s empowering and exciting knowing that I am witnessing a rising star who shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
You can find Amaarae’s Spotify here!