‘Your voice is deeply organic’: You’s Penn Badgley heaps praises on Arooj Aftab in new video

‘Your voice is deeply organic’: You’s Penn Badgley heaps praises on Arooj Aftab in new video

The singer and actor got together in New York to discuss Aftab's upcoming album and her obsession with the night over a game of chess.
Updated 25 Apr, 2024

Singer Arooj Aftab recently teased fans with a clip of an upcoming collaboration with You star Penn Badgley, leaving many wondering what it was the two were working on together.

On Thursday, the Grammy-winning artist dropped the full video on YouTube that saw her and the actor engage in a deep conversation. Titled “A Night with Arooj Aftab and Penn Badgley”, the video sees the singer lead the actor to a chess forum where they attempt (read, pretend) to play chess, only to really discuss Aftab’s upcoming album Night Reign, her musical influences and Badgley’s take on her music.

“When you first asked me to do this, I was naturally inclined to do it. But when you told me the time, I was like, ‘wow, starting at 9? I have kids…’” shared Badgley, hesitant. “Sorry,” Aftab replied. “No, no, no, it’s great, it’s okay,” Badgley assured. “About the time, not the kids,” Aftab added quirkily.

“But then I realised, this is about the night,” Badgley reflected. Aftab went on to reveal that just like Batman, she’s not seen in the daytime. “It’s a thing. In the day we can see the truths of each other’s faces, it’s so bright.”

On that note, Badgley shared that to him, night time activity is a “huge spectrum,” and Aftab’s music “taps into glimpses along that spectrum.”

Aftab said that she likes the night a lot and spends a lot of her nighttime contemplating her music. “What is your process?” asked Badgley. Instead of actually answering his question, Aftab shared what people speculate — that she goes into a frenzy at night to write songs or experiences things at night that inspire her to write.

Badgley revealed that their friendship was born after he and his wife saw her performing, alongside artists Laurie Anderson, boygenius, Philip Glass and “some monks, without any disrespect”.

“But your singing completely blew the roster” he said, recalling how he couldn’t tell where her voice was coming from. “It felt as though you were being mastered on a different desk or something.” The Gossip Girl actor added, “[Your voice] it’s deeply organic and it feels… lost.”

When asked if she’s completed her upcoming record already, Aftab replied, “It’s been a few months, actually. It’s the shortest amount of time I’ve spent making a record. A little less than a year.”

“Does it feel like you’re still exploring its themes?” Badgley inquired. “No, it feels like the one before this, Vulture Prince, I was in a time of healing and grief and loss associated with a dark time. You lost somebody, it’s dark, you are sad. After doing that record and having some space from it and spending this time on the road, touring and not actually being so active in the day-time, going to my day job anymore. I realised that the night is evolving and the darkness is evolving for me.”

Aftab said that her new record was a combination of all those realisations because unlike her previous work, it’s not a platform to meditate. “I wanted to be a little more inclusive of myself as well — I like being out at night, I like falling in love, I like meeting people and being inspired by conversations and busy streets,” she said.

“Have you been in a garden at night?” she asked Badgley, “Not that I can recall. I have been there in spirit, never in body.” To this, Aftab revealed how her nighttime wanderings led her to make Raat Ki Rani.

“There is a flower, that only blooms at night, smells amazing, it is called, Queen of the Night. I remember 90s Pakistan, visiting with my parents, and it was so green; Lahore is so green. And people would plant this flower in their garden,” she recalled.

“It was the most beautiful scent that you could associate with driving around in Lahore in the 90s. The windows down, you could catch a whiff. I don’t go to Pakistan often but the last time I was there, I was at a party and meeting all these people and I thought of this flower. So that song has to do with the intoxication and the nostalgia of the night.”

Aftab also shared that she was about to title her album Queen of the Night but figured that people would assume she’s calling herself that and it would sound pretentious, especially after Vulture Prince.

“Are there specific forms of music that you’re drawing from, like cultural legacies that are important to you?” inquired Badgley.

“There’s South Asian, Pakistani stuff because it’s in your ear. It’s a place that really loves music. And music, art and dance is a really huge part of South Asian culture so you can’t escape it,” Aftab remarked. “And then, I studied jazz, so that’s how I approach music. Out of those two very unstable kind of things, there’s just, emotions and lifestyle and choices that you make, the people that you meet and the people you invest in,” she added.

Aftab’s upcoming record, a nine-track album, is set to release on May 31.


Taj Ahmad Apr 25, 2024 09:11pm
Simply great and amazing voice.
HH Apr 27, 2024 07:16am
Quite an androgynous voice, and not every person can appreciate that, including me.