Tag Archives: Amerie

All I Need: Amerie’s “Touch” Turns 10

Amerie in 2005.

Amerie in 2005

Theories of new leadership for the R&B female vanguard at the outset of the 2000’s rumble on today. After Aaliyah’s untimely death, a vacuum opened and many rushed to fill itBeyoncé ascended quickly.

Though there have always been the zeitgeist figures of any genre, usually it’s those under the surface of said genre that carry its current along. Singers like Mrs. Carter look to those currents for inspirationoften they translate their breakthroughs to a wider audience. The politics of this exchange will invoke ire, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Amerie Rogers was, and is, a strong current in modern R&B’s ocean.

Amerie snuggled in between hip-hop and neo-soul with her first album All I Have (2002). But, a decade ago many questioned if the voice behind that record was just an extension of its producer Rich Harrison. It was a misconception Amerie refuted with her sophomore LP.

The History

The biracial vocalistAmerie is of Korean and African-American descentwas the requisite “army brat” due to her father’s vocation with the United States government. By the time Amerie was exiting her teens, she had traveled extensively and would secure her higher education (via Georgetown University). However, music, literature, art and fashion remained her passions; she placed herself in a position to meet music heads of industry to pursue her dream.

Neophyte producer Rich Harrison, fresh off assignments for Mary BligeMary (1999) and No More Drama (2001)crossed paths with Amerie. The pairing had instant creative chemistry and Amerie’s debut All I Have (Columbia, 2002) was born. Held aloft by its single “Why Don’t We Fall In Love?” (U.S. R&B #9, U.S. Pop #23) in the summer of 2002, Amerie made a splash with urban radio and its record buyers.

All I Have was a good starting point for Amerie and work slowly began on its follow-up. In the interim between Amerie’s first and second albums, Harrison ventured out for more production job opportunities. Harrison’s take on “go-go music,” its roots owed to the clubby Washington, D.C. flavored go-go, had found another voice to wield it, Amerie’s Columbia label mate Beyoncé.

Crazy in Love,” lifted from Beyoncé’s platinum busting Dangerously in Love (2003), made Harrison an overnight R&B knobtwirler hot property of the period. The reappropriated go-go vibe almost became cemented to Beyoncé’s sonic identity, despite Amerie fronting it just a year earlier.

Unmoved, Amerie reenlisted Harrison and set forth to achieve a sophomore strike.

The Record

Amerie's

Amerie’s “Touch” transformation

Amerie quietly went about writing 10 of the 11 cuts that comprised her second LP, Touch―international versions boasted “Man Up” (with Nas) and an ambitious Diana Ross cover (“I’m Coming Out”).

This dramatic turn-around was a large leap of progression as Amerie had no writing input on Touch’s preceding record.

Amerie and Harrison steered Touch with additional production / writing from a wealth of mainstream and underground talent: Bink!, Lil’ Jon, The Buchanans, Red Sypda, Dre & Vidal, Cory Rooney, Sean Garrett and Bryce Wilson (formerly of Mantronix and Groove Theory). Touch split its sound across uptempos and downtempos.

The former batch were led by the gorgeous, but percussive “1 Thing”. Utilizing a brainy interpolation of “Oh, Calcutta!” by The Meters, Amerie took back the sound she put on the scene. Yet, “1 Thing’s” melodic femininity held a confidence and control (vocally) that heretofore she had not shown.

Subsequent shakers were meaty (the title song, “Not the Only One,” “Talkin’ ‘Bout”), but they lacked that sweet underpinning which made “1 Thing” addictive. Thankfully, later elevated excursions on her third and fourth records juggled production and performance energy evenly.

The latter category of ballads is where Touch highlighted Amerie’s refined taste in samples: “All I Need” (Jean Carne’s “You Are All I Need”), “Rolling Down My Face”  (Roy Ayers’ “Searching”) and “Can We Go” (Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Evil). Amerie reinterpreted them all with a refreshing spin. In particular, “Can We Go” (the sole Harrison penned number) was a cascading duet with crooner Carl Thomas that captured Amerie’s sensitive side superbly. 

With the stated 11 tracks, excusing an unnecessary “1 Thing” remix with Eve, Touch platformed Amerie’s own personality.

The Impact

The Touch LP cover

The Touch LP cover

“1 Thing” ushered in the “new Amerie” to critics and record buyers. It was a hit: U.S. R&B #1, U.S. Pop #8, U.K. #4.

“1 Thing” became Amerie’s signature tune and netted a Grammy nomination for “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” in 2006. Additionally, it was one of the inaugural digital singles to be awarded with a platinum certification by the RIAA.

It didn’t hurt that “1 Thing” was the theme to the Will Smith rom-com ‘Hitch’ giving it a larger pop audience. Its parent recording Touch landed on 4/26/15 to favor on the charts: U.S. Billboard 200 #2, U.S. Top R&B / Hip-Hop #1, U.K. #28.

Critically, Amerie’s maneuver to take hold of her artistic affairs paid off.

Vibe Magazine’s Angie Romero opined:

The brash soul samples, horns and hard club beats on the lead single, “1 Thing,” are an excellent preview of Touch’s sonic flair.

Rolling Stone writer Bill Werde elaborated further:

Currently booming from jeeps in a neighborhood near you, Amerie’s “1 Thing” is an early front-runner for “song-of-the-summer” status. Amerie is all grown up on her second effort. And in this case, growth is good.

The corresponding music video for “1 Thing” also announced a visually alert Amerie. Her love of high fashion and pop culture (notice the nod to the Elvis Presley ‘68 Comeback Special’  concert) were very much present. She wasn’t just a pretty face, her ideas for conception, creation and execution extended from the lyric notepad, to her closet and the director’s chair.

“1 Thing”

Directed By: Chris Robinson and Amerie

Touch reached gold certification in the United States with 406,000 copies moved as of it last certification in June 2009. It spun off two additional singles during its original lifespan in 2005: “Touch” (U.S. R&B #95, U.K. #19) and “Talkin’ ‘Bout” (U.S. R&B Bubbling Under #2). The LP  garnered Amerie a “Best Contemporary R&B Album” Grammy bid in 2006 along with the aforementioned “1 Thing” nomination.

Amerie should have had an easy ride with Columbia Records because of Touch’s victory. Sadly, trouble had already appeared during the second record’s formative period .

The label wasn’t ready to cooperate with Amerie’s new outlook for her career; the singer later revealed that Columbia had fought her on the decision to move forward with “1 Thing” as the album’s first single. The other selections pulled from Touch received little-to-no push. The exquisite LPs that followed Touch had stalled sales because of major label indifference: Because I Love It (Columbia, 2007) and In Love & War (Island / Def Jam, 2009).

Since abdicating from A&R politics after her fourth record, the singer / songwriter / producer / arranger has been hard at work on her fifth LP, Cymatika. The long player’s title draws from the term cymatics, the scientific study of visible sound and vibrations. Various pieces have been shared by Amerie from the forthcoming effort since 2011; last year’s “What I Want” was the most exciting taster thus far.

Amerie scaled cerebral heights with her third and fourth albums, but it all began with Touch. Amerie’s chrysalis instituted there allowed her to be reborn as one of those mentioned driving currents in modern R&B. Her influence is very present in the women of that genre. Listen closely. Ranking: Semi-classic

[Editor’s Note: Touch is readily in print, digitally and physically. For current information on Amerie, visit her official website.-QH]

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The QH Blend’s “100 @ 30”: [61 thru 80]

100-4-1

Amel Larrieux (61) / Pat Benatar (62) /Deee-Lite (63) / Moloko (64) / a-ha (65)

 Ice Cream Everyday (Blisslife, 2013): When you hear the word intimacy, you don’t think of it as something beyond soft or restrained. Amel Larrieux’s music was always intimate, yet could be groovy, downtempo and anything else imagined. Ice Cream Everyday embodied that stated sentiment―a record that revealed something new anytime I came back to it.

Tropico (Chrysalis, 1984): Reinvention was a great look on Pat Benatar. The rockier bits she was known for previously were fine, but hearing Benatar on “Diamond Field,” “Painted Desert” and “Love in the Ice Age” made me ecstatic! Her versatility flexed its muscles to show she wasn’t just a spandex clad wet dream.

Infinity Within (Elektra, 1992): That Deee-Lite were dismissed as one-hit wonder fluff made no sense; their second record is where the groove really got it in for me. The way Deee-Lite lined Infinity Within with vintage funk and contemporary dance scored major points. Not to mention the album was socially conscious and deflated the oft cited balloon that pop couldn’t pack a message.

Statues (Echo, 2003): Moloko threw me for a loop when I started getting into them. Their first two records were acerbic and crazy, not too many cuts had replay value outside of a handful. Their third album, Things to Make and Do (2000), bore a maturity that took root on their fourth (and last) LP, Statues. The album split itself between heartbreak and hedonism, but with Moloko that wasn’t surprising.

Scoundrel Days (Warner Brothers, 1986): “Take On Me” was a great song, but arguably an anomaly for these gentlemen whose work was often introspective. Scoundrel Days extended on a-ha’s synth-pop styling, but the songwriting kept me rapt with attention. “Manhattan Skyline’s” draconian atmosphere was a slice of what to expect on Scoundrel Days for the uninitiated.

100-4-2

Carole King (66) / Amerie (67) / Lisa Stansfield (68) / No Doubt (69) / Common (70)

Fantasy (Ode, 1973): Tapestry (1971) clouded the view for a lot of great records from Ms. King. Fantasy, a lush song cycle, was one such recording. I loved it at first spin. The segue between “You Light Up My Life” and “Corazon” drove me bananas (in a good way).

Because I Love It (Columbia, 2007): To go from being a producer’s palette to her own woman, Amerie had the goods. Her cerebral R&B was lovably fussy on Because I Love It. I copped the album as an import at the time, so it was pretty cool to have had this when so many people were unaware she had a junior long player forthcoming in the U.S. 

So Natural (Arista, 1993): The logical successor to Real Love (1991), Stansfield’s overlapping of soul and pop was unrivaled. Without hesitation, I maintain that So Natural was the “ballads beast” of her output; she put down some sultry, and sensitive, songs. It wasn’t all downtempo though― “Little Bit of Heaven,” a lost U.K. single from the LP, got the most play from me back when I bought So Natural.

Return of Saturn (Interscope, 2000): Reading about this album now, it’s unfathomable that it was a commercial misfire. Then again, No Doubt was always in the shadow of Tragic Kingdom (1996). That said, the band made an album that clutched the feelings encapsulated by that weird junction in the lives of all young adults.

Electric Circus (MCA, 2002): When I stumbled across Electric Circus, it blew me out of the water. It was hip-hop, but at the same time it took to task what hip-hop was supposed to sound like. The instrumental vignettes between the actual tracks were appetizing too.

100-4-3

The 5th Dimension (71) / Pointer Sisters (72) / Macy Gray (73) / Suzanne Vega (74) / Loose Ends (75)

The Magic Garden (Soul City, 1967): What endeared me to music from this time was its evocative nature―but that it wasn’t consciously trying. Artists were not afraid to feel and relate that to the album format (slowly burgeoning at this point). The 5th Dimension went on to do more commercially accesible stuff, but The Magic Garden was effusive.

Energy (Planet, 1978): From slapper-era jazz to (then) modern funk music, the Pointer Sisters were studied in diversity before they even got to Energy. They furthered that axiom with this, an album of rock-and-roll covers that possessed enough R&B to maintain that audience. Astonishing. 

the id (Epic, 2001): The wilder pace hopping on this bad boy was so much fun! Gray’s albums were engaging affairs; her idiosyncrasies on the id made it difficult not to love the record, sort of like that wild aunt / relative we all know. Gray left some room for quieter moments too.

Nine Objects of Desire (A&M, 1996): Vega as an artist was (and is) voracious; her musical appetites never knew any border. When I heard Nine Objects of Desire, I was taken aback with how jazzy it was, but the slinkiness suited her. Vega’s canvas on the long player had breadth, so it was not a monotonous album by any stretch.

A Little Spice (Virgin, 1984): Looking at its historical context, A Little Spice was pitched between post-disco and hip-hop. The record slotted neatly in between those extremes to produce an uptown / downtown sound that got both sides of the Atlantic moving. 

100-4-4

Brenda Russell (76) / Eurythmics (77) / Björk (78) /Jennifer Lopez (79) / The Delfonics (80)

Brenda Russell (A&M, 1979): Russell was member of a group of women who connected jazz and R&B at a time when they were not adjoined. Russell’s earthiness and melodies combined splendidly on “You’re Free” and her inaugural (and superior) take of “If Only For One Night”. It was apparent that jazz and R&B were better together than apart thanks to Russell.

Savage (RCA, 1987): I remember reading about Savage and how people just didn’t get what the Eurythmics were doing with it. As the years passed after acquiring Savage, its neurotic behavior grew on me. Underneath their tech beat a human heart and that made the record relatable, even in its madder moments. Plus, “Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)” just rocked.

Homogenic (One Little Indian, 1997): Homogenic was a majestic statement of heartbreak colored in varying hues of anger, resentment and self-examination. I didn’t “get it” when it hit my ears at 15, it wasn’t until I was 22 and had experienced more personally. Arriving back to the stormy album in lieu of that, of course it clicked. 

Brave (Epic, 2007): What’s not to love about Brave? Jennifer Lopez was in great voice throughout the album’s run time; the production was muscular without overpowering her too, something she had struggled with in the past. It was good pop music in a time when pop was becoming increasingly rare to find.

La-La Means I Love You (Philly Groove, 1968): My Dad’s music is what I’ve affectionately termed this kind of soul. It’s Philly, it’s creamy, it’s romantic, it’s heartbreaking. The trio’s vocalizing was crisp, nothing out of line or messy.

[Editor’s Note: Please visit your local record store or online retailer for information on availability.-QH]

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