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"Amazing popstar. Amazing music." Pop Justice
"I am going to predict big things for A*M*E” Mistajam
"A*M*E "has a pre-gangsta old school vibe that we love" Paper Magazine
In January 2012 a DIY fanzine, dotted through with the unique wisdom of youth began circulating the pop stratosphere. Half way between SuperSuper and Just 17, it took a fresh, candid look at street-style and teenage concerns, body-swerving cliché and brimming over with personality. The cover star was a beautiful black girl wearing a cute rain mac, make-up blitzed on-point, weave slick, carrying a small inflatable cow on a leash.
Three letters bestrode the top of the publication. A*M*E. It was she.
Buzz began about the 16-year-old that’d audaciously named her magazine after herself. ‘Why not? she says, There aren’t any magazines out there that talk to girls my age.’ Before we had even got to hear a bar of the infectious, blue-chip, street-sounds urban pop that A*M*E (pronounced Amy) had fashioned mostly in her friend’s bedrooms and now owns, the attitude was laid out.
A*M*E is putting the C*O*O*L* back into F*U*N*.
Well, someone had to.
We got to have a chat with the new pop sensation,
How do you recognise when you have heard a perfect pop song, A*M*E?
‘It usually starts with a great concept, of course. Not too light-hearted, not too serious; a perfect pop song is a perfect blend of the two. It should grab you from the second you hear it. The lyrics have to mean something and the performance has to carry that meaning. What I love most about a perfect pop song is that with it you are never alone. That’s what makes me happiest about pop music. It is a friend when no-one else is. Tracks like TLC - No Scrubs, Madonna – Holiday, Jay - Z - Hard Knock Life or anything by Adele! All amazing pop songs.’
A*M*E was born in the war-torn political landscape of Sierra Leone. She lived there until she was eight. Despite her mother’s hair salon and one early family house being burnt to the ground and frequent midnight flits to new addresses, including a spell in neighbouring Guinea, she looks back with relish at that first half of her life so far. ‘
Her father was a local musical star, he and his brothers entertaining under the family name Kabba, flitting in and out of fame and fashion. Little A*M*E would study her father’s musicality. She tried writing songs over hits he had written with her own little girl lyrical spin.
Back home in Sierra Leone, she loved the music of boybands. ‘I’m not embarrassed. she says, Everyone’s got to start somewhere and I still like a lot of that Backstreet Boys and *NSync music now’.
Set against a fractious backdrop, it probably was her best friend, at least the thing she could most rely on: ‘The saddest thing that happened was my mum and dad left to set up home in London and me and my sister were stuck there on our own for six months.
The kaleidoscopic world of London was a plane journey away. ‘I didn’t even know what it was going to look like. Everything was massive and freezing compared to back home. The only things I knew about the first world were learnt from pop music.’
From her first steps in the new world, A*M*E began forging her little path to pop glory. At primary school she fronted the Destiny’s Child indebted schoolyard girlband, Independent Girls (‘Independent? In year five? Really?’). ‘Whenever I was with them performing I always wanted something more. I always tried to flick my hair that bit harder than them or do a little vocal run when I wasn’t supposed to. I kind of knew I could do it.’
A choirmaster at her secondary school noticed, too. The choir was called Vocalize. Little A*M*E was put at the front and took lead vocals on their South London choral renditions of Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop The Music and her beloved Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River. And then a bug hit. ‘I learnt about ‘90s pop,’ she says, with the careful phrasing of a Paleontologist excavating the prehistoric world. ‘O.M.G. That stuff was so real.’
A solo A*M*E began to take shape. Her fashion chops were already radicalising. ‘When everyone was dying their weaves blonde I dyed mine bright ginger. When other girls got heels I got 16-hole Doc Martens. When girls got their big hoop earrings I got 13 different piercings. It’s in my nature to go against what everyone else is doing.’ She didn’t want to fall into anyone else’s cliché of what a young black girl ought to look or sound like. ‘I didn’t look at contemporary artists. I studied the Beatles instead. I didn’t want to fall into anybody’s stereotypes. I’m 16. I’m black. I’d be stupid not to think that people would come with certain preconceptions. It’s tragic but if you say black girl from the street, instantly people have negative associations. I didn’t want to part of any of that. I always wanted to rebel against that.’
And so the music followed. Introduced to sonic wizard, recent major label signatory and the similarly capitalised MNEK, the two wrote their first great song together in a mutual friend’s bedroom. A*M*E was 15. ‘He’s a total 90s pop head, like the male version of me. I was a bit shy at first, a bit jealous that he’d been signed. He had a chorus idea and everything started to flow.
A*M*E’s opening shot at pop glory, her first single is fittingly an MNEK collaboration, City Lights. ‘When we wrote it I knew that I had found a fresh sound, something that felt like me.’ It’s street smart, impish beat and one-listen addictive chorus feel specifically disposed to brighten up the post Katy B pop landscape. Like the magazine she fashioned, she has taken a strictly DIY approach to the video accompaniment.
Since then A*M*E has released her 2nd single "Ride or Die" (you can view the video here - www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE7lxzinPoY
Ride or Die follows on from "city Lights" and is another playful pop collaboration between A*M*E and MNEK, two amazingly talented teens with a video to match. If you have a love of pop (or horses for that matter) be sure to check it out
A*M*E would like to take on the world, thank you very much. But she would like to do it on her terms. ‘I’m a bit of a chameleon,’ she says, staring directly at her zebra print nail-art, ‘I’m influenced by what’s happening in the present but things that are so far back, too. I’m now. But I’m looking to the golden age of pop. And heading it straight to the future.’
She said it.
Check out A*M*E’s fanzine here - http://issuu.com/officialame/docs/theame1
Twitter here - https://twitter.com/#!/theofficialAME
Facebook - www.facebook.com/theofficialame
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