Toronto-based musician Amaal’s latest EP Milly is an exquisite force of contemporary R & B. Silky-smooth sonic landscapes serve as the backdrop to the crystalline precision of the singer’s sensual vocals. Amaal fittingly describes Milly, with its lyrics that embody self-assuredness, as a celebration of divine femininity. But arriving at such resolute confidence was a challenge for the Somalia-born artist, whose cultural background placed constraints on her artistic expression at times. “This project has been my own liberation from my upbringing and experiences,” she says.
The EP’s title—Milly, her teenage nickname—represents a time when she began experimenting with self-expression. “That part of me has always existed,” says Amaal, “but I feel like I tap into it and then I push it back in out of fear, because I always toed this line between what’s appropriate and what’s not.” The nickname came to represent an alter ego that defied the all-consuming nature of external scrutiny. “Milly is that badass girl who doesn’t care,” she says, “and that’s what I feel like I’ve become more of, and what I want to tap into.” Thus the EP is a dazzling embodiment of a woman courageously embracing authenticity while refusing the limitations placed upon her.
Photo courtesy of Warner Music Canada.
Although impressively distinct, Milly’s production is at times reminiscent of earlier eras, particularly the mid-to-late ’90s and early ’00s. Amaal says artists like Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, and Lauryn Hill have inspired her. “[They’re] what drove me to fall in love with music, so it only felt right to pay respect to that time.” She’s also inspired by the triumphs and challenges of the women in her life. “Living in a patriarchal world,” she says, “I use my music to fight against it—that’s always been something that I felt was a tool for me, because I’ve personally felt the effects of that kind of oppression.” When asked which artist would be her dream collab, she says “Kehlani” without hesitation. “I really love her. I love her music, I love her story, I love who she is as a person and what she fights for.” In short, “being a woman inspires me.”
Sensual, playful, sophisticated, and bold, Milly radiates the brilliance of women while resisting the forces that oppress them. “From the project as a whole,” she says, “I hope people get a sense of bravery and freedom to express themselves and be exactly whoever it is they want to be.”