Amira Jazeera’s dreamy pop makes a perfect quarantine soundtrack | The Listener | Chicago Reader

Amira Jazeera’s dreamy pop makes a perfect quarantine soundtrack 

Take it from her roommate, who hears every note.

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click to enlarge Amira Jazeera - PHOTO BY @3RIKAAG ON INSTAGRAM
  • Amira Jazeera
  • Photo by @3rikaag on Instagram

Amira Jazeera does it all: she writes, records, mixes, sings, even creates her own promos. Once quarantine hit, this self-proclaimed "Arab pop princess" decided to take even more of her career into her own hands and build a home studio in her bedroom—and as her roommate, I got to see the magic happen firsthand. Being in quarantine with a musician who's actively creating new material can be a noisy nightmare, especially if you don't care for their style. But for me, listening to Jazeera's work in progress has been an inspiring experience, and the music I've overheard has quickly turned me into one of her biggest fans.

Over the past six months, Jazeera has released four new songs—three independent singles and the track "Need" for the Why? Records compilation Art Is Love Vol. 1. Each reflects on something deeply personal: "Magic" (with violin by Jazeera's brother, local comedian and performer Kal Jazeera) is an anthem about self-worth and self-empowerment. "Citrus" tells a story of sexual discovery. And "Done," just released Friday, is about getting rid of the toxic people in your life. Each song in its own way invokes the spirit of 90s icons such as Brandy and Destiny's Child, while sticking to modern beats and a dreamy pop sound.

I've heard iterations of each of these songs floating through our apartment dozens and dozens of times, and yet I still can't stop listening. "Citrus" in particular keeps me coming back, partly because it's catchy as hell and partly because it tells such a satisfying story. When Jazeera released it in May, it was her way of coming out as bisexual (and ultimately sexually fluid) to the world. Listening to the lyrics is like reading someone's diary (a common trait in all Jazeera songs), but they still speak to a universal experience. I don't think anyone can disagree with the hook in the head-bopping chorus: "Life's not sweet, it's citrus."

Jazeera and I sometimes talk about her music late at night over cold pizza in the kitchen, and she's told me that even as she gains fans, she hasn't really started caring about being famous or making money. She just wants to keep creating on her own terms, tell her story, and inspire young girls who look like her—who are barely represented in American pop. And based on the notes creeping out of her bedroom studio, she's got a lot more experiences to share.  v


The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at thelistener@chicagoreader.com.

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