That's the exact dilemma I found myself in last week after her team had agreed to a face-to-face interview. I've bumped into Amanda a few times, but never said more than a "hi" and for this, our first-ever interview, I really wanted to impress. So... seafood or grill house? Salads or steaks?
My phone rang exactly two minutes before we had agreed to start our interview - "We're here, where should we meet?" her publicist asked. Screw it. "Tasha's", I said as I whipped out my notes and braced myself for a mid-afternoon chat with one of South Africa's most talented musicians.
Amanda Black has an aura of greatness that surrounds her every move. People walk aside her - rather than in front of or behind her. When she speaks (in this case as she ordered her food and drinks) people (i.e. the waiters!) act immediately. And when she makes eye contact with you and addresses you in conversation, you can't help but pay very close attention to every word she's saying.
It's not every artist you can say this about, but Amanda has got Power - which makes the title of her new album particularly apt.
Once orders were out the way and we were ready to kick off the interview, it was the album and its resounding title that sparked the beginning of our conversation.
It came as no surprise that Amanda was extremely excited about the release of her sophomore album. She replied enthusiastically:
"The album is on preorder, the response has been amazing because I haven't dropped since 2016 so my core fans, my loyal fans, are extremely excited about what's to come. The response to the singles, Thandwa Ndim' and Egoli has also been incredible but when we announced that we are dropping the album, it really took people by surprise!"
I joked that the album was dropping on the 25th of October - payday for most people - giving her fans all the more reason to be excited. She laughed it off, "I didn't even think about that!"
On a serious note, I wanted to know more about the blockbuster collaborations she has on the album and how they came about. She's teamed up with artists from Mzansi, Nigeria and even the States on Power and believe me when I say she's more excited for us to hear them than we are!
She explained: "The collaborations are amazing! Ami Faku, Adekunle Gold, Soweto Gospel Choir and Anthony Hamilton are on there. The collabos actually just fell into place and they all happened right at the end when we were wrapping up the album!
With Anthony Hamilton, we were both performing at the same show in Mzansi and when there was an opportunity to talk about his favourite artists, I was one of the local acts he named! So we decided to shoot our shot and reach out and what do you know, he was happy to work with us! He came together with the Soweto Gospel for the song which is now called Vuka and let me just say it's going to make you shiver, it's that good!"
So what exactly is the rest of the album about?
"Power is a lot of people's stories, there's a song for everybody in terms of the different stages we go through in life. It's a journey. There are songs about feeling low, low, low and there are songs about rising and getting up (like Vuka!)."
Power is Amanda's first body of work since leaving Ambitiouz Entertainment. While some artists struggle to find their feet after leaving a label, Amanda appears to have grown her roots and built a stable foundation.
She explained her current setup by saying: "Life as an independent artist, wow! I have more work, a lot more work, but I'm not completely on my own. So I've signed a joint venture with Sony music and they give me access to their network, but I also have a lot of control over how everything looks, how it sounds, what it's called and anything with my name on it. So how it is right now, we have a team who will run off and do everything, but they have to come to me and be like "you're okay with this right?". I have control and input but I also don't do everything ALONE. "
This month has been dominated by calls on the government to do better by its artists. Actors, most notably Vatiswa Ndara and Mara Louw, have been extremely vocal about the manner in which they are exploited by production companies. Amanda feels as if the same is happening in the music industry.
"The music industry needs a lot of work right now. We have a booming industry but we have hungry artists. The only reason why we are not where we need to be is because of the exploitation. Artists are being robbed, artists are not being paid their dues, you get in here and are treated like less than human and I have to say - it's not okay!"
She wasn't done! Having seen exploitation first hand, Amanda wanted every single ZAlebs reader to know that this industry would not exist without the artists we read about (and interview) on a daily basis.
The outspoken singer chimed: "There would be no entertainment industry without the artists! We do so much for this industry but we are being made to feel like we are nothing. Without actors there's no TV, there are no managers, there's nothing. There needs to be a transformation but unfortunately what happens is because we are so replaceable, they will take someone who will accept the money you are rejecting".
But the people who have the power (the government) aren't taking this seriously enough. As optimistic as I am, I wondered what the future held.
"It will never change until the department of arts and culture is its own department. Right now we share spaces, budgets and everything with sports and recreation."
Baby steps have been taken, but there is still a long journey to go. Conversations and dailogues such as these will pave the way for future progress.
Read Next: Amanda Black Files Lawsuit Against Ambitiouz Entertainment
Image Credit: www.instagram.com/AmandaBlackSA