With the release of her debut EP '... And Then I Stopped Caring', South African R&B and soul singer Amarafleur signals a newfound self-confidence in her music.
Besides her 2019 single "DontLetGo" and the 2020 track "Reckless", fans of Joburg-based singer Amarafleur's soothing vocals had to be satisfied with her collaborations with the likes of Xenlaii, ECHLN, and Maramza as they waited for her to release a larger body of solo work. That day finally came with the release of her debut EP ...And Then I Stopped Caring, a three-track offering that sees the songstress overcome her fear of judgment and explores personal themes that include growth, anxiety, and intimacy.
The journey that led to the release of the EP began in 2019 after the release of "DontLetGo", which found Amarafleur in a space where she was doubting whether she had done enough creatively for the song, causing her to promote it less than it deserved. In looking back at this period, she was able to identify the reason that, up to then, had prevented her from releasing more music. "I realised it was because I cared about what happened when the music was out to others too much, so you're not creating anything," she says. "And that is how I got to the point where I decided to write what I wanted to write, make sure that what I feel is at the fore of the music-making process. I decided that this time it's about the end product and how I feel about it first before how the audience will feel about it."
Amarafleur - whole www.youtube.com
Although writing began in 2019, the song "whole" was written soon after the release of "DontLetGo" while the remaining two tracks were only written in 2020, with "a reminder" rewritten and completed in December. Amarafleur's writing process is guided by her emotions, and she takes a lot of time observing how she feels in order to put it into writing. "I wait to write until I'm inspired to do so. I will usually finish writing a song in maybe an hour at most. I write it fairly quickly but I sit and try to gather how I feel about the writing; that takes a long time."
Having overcome her fear of judgment, ...And Then I Stopped Caring sees Amarafleur diving into personal topics. The opening song "a reminder" talks about the positive she sees within herself and the time she took to improve herself as a person and artist, allowing her to release this EP. This sentiment is echoed in the lyrics, "Went to be a better you/ in the time that you were gone".
Photo by Tseliso Monaheng.
On "whole", the singer interrogates how anxiety affects the way she deals with day-to-day life and relationships, with such lines on the hook as, "If only you knew how to let it all go/ If only you knew it's not always your fault," reflecting on how anxiety holds her back. "On a personal level, if something happens or I express myself, I immediately apologise for that, for having an opinion on something, for being honest. Those things are a problem because you're not able to see that how you feel is completely valid and you're allowed to be honest about those things," she says.
"show me how" is Amarafleur's first song about sex, a topic she had always found herself struggling to write about. "For the longest time, I felt like it was scary or I'd be embarrassed about these things," she says. "For me, it's just getting in touch with that side of my writing and not restricting myself based on what people might feel uncomfortable about. So, that was me testing how far I could push myself. I can't say that I'm doing this because I don't care what people think and not be able to write about sex."
Soulful and stripped-down
Sonically, the EP is soulful and stripped-down. "a reminder", which is produced by Buli, sets the tone with its sparse beat and ambient pads over which Amarafleur delivers her delicate vocals. "whole", the EP's single featuring an earworm-inducing hook that sees her playfully jumping between octaves, was produced by Broken Transient and features shimmering keys, a fat bassline and gentle guitar strums. The closing track, "show me how", another Buli production, echoes the intimacy of the lyrics with its walking bass, angelic pads, and unhurried drums evoking feelings of passionate encounters.
...and then i stopped caring www.youtube.com
The EP also sees Amarafleur working with musicians for the first time, featuring Zwide Ndwandwe and Thane Smith of the band Kujenga on bass and guitar respectively. The decision to include live instruments came from her love of live music. "I like how full music seems to sound even if you add a subtle element," she says. While she wanted to include more musicians, the restrictions of lockdown meant that she wasn't able to have sessions with them. Still, the addition of bass and guitar add an organic element to the music, giving it more energy. "It was just two instruments and so much changed. It was me just trying something, and it worked beautifully. So, for my next project, I'll probably have more live elements."
The music video for "whole", released at the end of January, was shot on a shoestring budget using fairy lights, a smoke machine, and shimmer spray to create the look of a high-budget production. Mid-February saw the release of a six-minute-long mini-documentary that captures the process of putting the EP together and her journey of overcoming her anxieties.
Having proven to herself through the release of her debut EP that she is more than capable of creating amazing music, Amarafleur is determined to use her newfound momentum to write and release more. She also plans on continuing to collaborate with other artists and is in the process of writing tracks with South African house music powerhouse Jackie Queens.
In finding that she no longer cares about what people think, Amarafleur has found new freedom to explore what she enjoys, and as a result, has created an EP that is not only personal and honest but also so good that you wish there were more tracks when it ends but hitting repeat brings as much joy.