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R&B singer Amerie (who in summer 2010 added an extra 'i' to her stage name) made her mainstream breakthrough with the release of her second album "Touch". Still under the wing of Rich Harrison, the half-black and half-Korean artist was finally able to reach the masses once "1 Thing" grabbed listeners' attention and this sophomore release went alongside it early into the year.
As her first release came out in 2002, it seemed as though a great gap developed between then and this time. She may have briefly stayed in the limelight by appearing on the 'Honey' soundtrack and providing the hook to LL Cool J's "Paradise", but little was heard of her until her career was revived in 2005. Coming out of D.C. its history of Go-Go Funk led to subtle usage of such instrumentals on her début, but it's nowhere as clear as it is with this record. The lead single, "1 Thing" has that distinctive percussion-led sound commanding the direction of her music and it allowed her to receive the attention she's always deserved.
At the time Crunk&B was at the peak of its popularity with the likes of Akon, T-Pain and Ciara all using lots of Dirty South club Hip Hop production influence in their beats. Amerie is no different. Although she may not have gone to the same lengths as the aforementioned acts, Lil' Jon assists with the titular track to the album. It may not be her best, but shows that she's remaining relevant and in-tune with what's current. This, however, doesn't seem to be a real reflection on the rest of the release.
Rich Harrison's experimental nature shines through on this record as it did with Amerie's first. For "Not the Only One" he tries out some crunching synth and for "Rolling Down My Face" he decides to loop some classic Roy Ayers to pull in the Acid Jazz crowd. A lot is done to make this release stand out at a time when contemporary R&B was getting exciting again. A lot of new acts came up midway through the '00s decade and by having so many unexpected twists and turns in it was able to outshine others. This even earned some well-deserved Grammy nominations.
At all times Amerie seems sweet without overdoing it. Her vocals are certainly of a high standard and she let's this be known, but at no point does it sound as though she's arrogant about it or pushing things too far. This seems to translate perfectly to the sorts of themes which she and Harrison penned for the release. With "Falling" her lovable sincerity allows the gentle song to shine amongst tracks with much more progressive production and shows that she's able to make an impact without beats which have to be particularly-memorable.
For "Just Like Me" Amerie shows that she isn't limited, musically, simply to singing. She's also an accomplished flautist. The live instrumental element to this album gives it a pureness which other R&B releases of this time lacked. The music is balanced well with futuristic electronically-programmed beats made to feel much more meaningful by complimentary live touches. These come in a number of forms, and it's great to find that the singer herself was behind some of it. This seems to be particularly important on a track like "Talkin' About", where it sounds like the studio is packed-out by a full Go-Go band. Drums and horn surround the singer's vocals and show that D.C.'s signature sound hasn't been forgotten by its locals (even if it has elsewhere).
The album seems to be consistent with a number of songs standing out along the way. It's difficult to pick up on weak points as it seems to always be going in the right direction. If it must be said then slight niggles are felt on "Not the Only One" and "Just Like Me", but no way do these impact upon how smoothly this release seems to run. The album the record is of a high standard and improves a little from what was found on her first. Its well worth checking out her progression from one to the other as it seems as though she and Rich Harrison are in a world of their own and don't care for trends outside the ones they innovate.
The final track on the album is a treat. Amerie's début single was a great one and so it's nice to find a re-worked version of "Why Don't We Fall in Love" to close the record off. Although it doesn't have the same great melodies, it invites the listener to go and research her past work and find out how she got to this stage. A bonus to the UK edition reunites Amerie and Nas for the first time since she made her début off the back of one of his less memorable singles.
This album is a great one from Amerie. It's a release bound to stand the test of time with such well-executed experiments. It's a wide-ranging record and although she may tend to stick to the happy, smiley subject matter, it doesn't sound in any way naive or immature. It offers a great alternative to more predictable acts in Chris Brown, Beyoncé and Rihanna who were all out at the time with a similar Pop-R&B style. She shows that dance songs don't have to be like everyone else's and that there are a number of alternatives to traditional ballads. All of these factors go into creating a solid record.
1. "1 Thing" **Five Stars**
2. "All I Need" **Five Stars**
3. "Touch" **Four Stars**
4. "Not the Only One" **Four Stars**
5. "Like it Used to Be" **Five Stars**
6. "Talkin' About" **Five Stars**
7. "Come with Me" **Five Stars**
8. "Rollin' Down My Face" **Five Stars**
9. "Can We Go" (feat. Carl Thomas) **Five Stars**
10. "Just Like Me" **Four Stars**
11. "Falling" **Five Stars**
12. "1 Thing" (Remix) (feat. Eve) **Five Stars**
13. "Why Don't We Fall in Love" (Richcraft Remix) **Five Stars**
14. "Man Up" (feat. Nas) **Five Stars**
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 1 Thing
2 All I Need
4 Not the Only One
5 Like It Used to Be
6 Talkin' About
7 Come With Me
8 Rolling Down My Face
9 Can We Go
10 Just Like Me
12 1 Thing
13 Why Don't We Fall in Love [Richcraft Remix]
14 Man Up (bonus track featuring Nas)