Arooj Aftab Knows You Love Her Sad Music. But She’s Ready for More.

In a remote studio in North Brooklyn, the actress Tessa Thompson stood behind a camera and instructed a young model how to project a precise but elusive expression of longing: “Almost like you can’t help it,” she suggested from beneath a black beret. Thompson was making her debut behind the camera, directing a music video by the Pakistani composer and vocalist Arooj Aftab.

“This is a dream come true,” Thompson said between takes on an afternoon in March. “A dream I didn’t know I had.”

The clip was for Aftab’s latest song, the dusky “Raat Ki Rani,” from her fourth solo album, “Night Reign,” due May 31. Drawing inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 thriller, “Persona,” the treatment weaves an imagistic love story between two women into a trippy meta-narrative that takes place on the set of a perfume commercial. Accordingly, the room was filled with fragrant bouquets as Aftab, 39, observed quietly from the sidelines.

If you didn’t know she was the star of the show — not to mention, the beautiful, Auto-Tuned voice pouring from the speakers all day — you might have assumed she was one of the crew members assessing the scenery, keeping the mood light, checking if anyone needed bottled water. As the team reset for a complex shot accompanied by a relentlessly looped fragment from her track, Aftab whispered offhandedly to a cameraperson, “Thank God the song is good!”

“Raat Ki Rani” is Aftab’s first official music video and a rare instance of the musician outsourcing her distinctive vision. Many listeners first encountered her hypnotic and immersive style via her 2021 breakthrough, “Vulture Prince”: a minimalist blend of jazz, folk and ghazals, a form of Urdu poetry that incorporates themes of longing and loss.

The album became a rare pandemic-era success for an independent artist, partly because its quiet, introspective music aligned with the times. It was forged in grief as a tribute to Aftab’s younger brother, who died in 2018, and the emotional intensity often came through her stunning vocals.

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