Hailing from North London, 18-year-old Ama Lou is a classically trained singer-songwriter, whose husky languid vocals melt dreamily on top of dragging, skittish beats and punctured drums. A keen activist and sometime skateboarder too, her androgynous aesthetic matched with sensual vocal style makes her stand out among her peers (the likes of Skepta, Little Simz and Wretch 32 all grew up in and around the same area) and her sound is already creating ripples on both sides of the Atlantic.
Naming her influences as Ella Fitzgerald, Gil Scott- Heron and “the whole High School Musical cast”, music in its many forms was something she appreciated from a young age. The precision and technicality of her classical vocal training, in particular, gave her the tools to experiment later in life. “Music was always around,” she tells us, “it just became something that I realised I could do as a career as I grew up. There wasn’t a single point where I decided… it just happened, I don’t think I had any choice!”
On her inevitable gravitation towards music, she adds “I think for most artists, whatever they do, it isn’t a choice and that’s true for me. It’s where I feel most safe and comfortable; I think that’s where purely connected work comes from. I create because it makes me happy. Every time I think about writing or organising a project I feel better!” Though she references the heartbreaking last words of Eric Garner (the New Yorker choked to death by police in July 2014) on ‘TBC’ and makes powerful statements about gender in her video for ‘Not Always’, Ama Lou is still getting to grips with being named a political artist. “It’s an honourable title,” she says. “I still don’t think I’ve done enough to deserve it. But of course, I really appreciate it. I am doing what I want at the moment and what feels right to me right now… politics aren’t fundamental to my work, but my current songs are political because I think it’s necessary”.
One of her aims through her artistry is to assure young people that activism isn’t embarrassing. There is a prevailing culture of aversion when it comes to earnest thought and meaningful engagement but encouragingly, she acknowledges, it is far easier now for those who want to make a difference – or be heard – to do so without judgement. “I do think we’ve been able to be a lot freer than our previous generations… We have been allowed to speak about more, open to more, and be not so constricted in ourselves. I like to believe that I have grown up with that kind of energy around me and I hope a lot of good things will come from it. Long may it continue.” Pop music doesn’t always have to have a message, and that’s ok, but if and when it does – or needs to – then that’s also ok. Pop artists like Ama Lou are raising awareness of injustice and world issues on their own terms. If this is the kind of pop star our much-derided millennial generation has produced, then bring on the future.
Featured image: Ama Lou wears Palace
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