Sunday, 18 November 2012

Whatever Happened To RnB? - Amerie

Remember when Tweet was an RnB singer and not a form of social networking? And remember when ‘Pony’ ruled the charts? In this weekly feature, I’m going to take a look back at some of the best RnB artists of yesteryear, sharing their signature videos and underrated hits, as well as looking at what they’re up to nowadays.

Previous posts have focussed on Cassie, Ciara, Missy Elliott, Brandy, Monica, TLC, Mya and John Legend. Today I wanted to take a look at the career of Amerie, one of the most underrated RnB artists to emerge in the last ten years.

Hey Amerie!

Born of Korean and African-American descent, Amerie's stunning look was always going to grab the attention of RnB fans from the get-go, but what makes Amerie an artist is her unique voice and fantastic songwriting talent. Unlike some RnB artists out there, Amerie is involved with all aspects of her music, from production and instrument playing to the writing and art design of her promotional material. Her talent is undeniable, so why is Amerie not as successful as other big artists out there? Let's take a look back.

Before Amerie released her first album, she dipped her toes in the water with a guest appearance on Nas' 'Stillmatic' album back in 2001. Here's 'Rule'.

Doesn't exactly set the world alight but it's a nice introduction to Amerie's tone and style of singing. The following year, Amerie released her debut album 'All I Have'.

The grammy winning producer and songwriter Rich Harrison, who would go on to produce Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love', helped discover Amerie and so was responsible for producing and writing the vast majority of 'All I Have'. The album was a moderate success, led by the hit single 'Why Don't We Fall In Love'. The video features Amerie mostly just walking down a street but her beautiful long legs manage to inject at least some excitement into the promo. I do like the song but at this point, Amerie's best work was still definitely yet to come.

Amerie followed up her first single with 'Talkin' To Me', another mid-tempo number that showcased a sweet, laid-back style for the singer which didn't exactly scream 'look at me, look at me'. Again, it's a nice song but it feels a little bit like an album track. Judge for yourself.

Before the release of her next album, Amerie filled the gap with a cover of Diana Ross' class 'I'm Coming Out' for the film 'Maid In Manhattan'. Seems a bit random, I know, but it's a nice enough cover, showing off some of that energy which Amerie would become renowned for later in her career. It's just that her interpretation doesn't add much new to the song.

Sounds like I'm a bit down on Amerie right? Well, if some of her early output was slightly underwhelming, the girl sure does make up for it on her sophomore album 'Touch'.

Released in 2005, 'Touch' received two grammy nominations and produced one of the biggest songs of that year, '1 Thing'. With its jittery beats and ridiculously catchy chorus, this crossover smash quickly became Amerie's signature song and while it may not be relevant here, her legs also look incredible once again in the video. Any similarities to Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love' are due to Rich Harrison's production style but '1 Thing' is definitely an RnB classic in its own right. In the summer of 2005, this was THE song everyone was listening to. Everyone knows it but if you haven't seen this classic promo in a while, then here it is.

'Ooh we felt so serious!' 

While Rich Harrison produced the majority of the second album, Amerie also worked with other producers, including crunk legend Lil Jon on the title track 'Touch'. The video shows a slightly raunchier side to Amerie yet throughout her career, she never sold out with needlessly sexual or gratuituous promos. I love the jungle theme and tribal-style production of 'Touch' and although it wasn't as big a hit as '1 Thing', I think it's still a fantastic follow-up. 

'Don't you think a girl like me should be... touched?' 

Unlike the first album, almost every track from 'Touch' was co-written by Amerie and it's around this time that you can see her clearly developing into her own personality as an artist. I absolutely loved this album, which I think she is yet to better, so I wanted to share some more tracks which should have been released as singles. First up is 'Talkin' About', which was officially announced to be the third single but was then scrapped for unknown reasons. This track once again showcases that bouncy energy and lightning fast vocals that became Amerie's signature sound.

It's so hard to pick only a few tracks from 'Touch' as there are so many highlights but mid-tempo number 'Like It Used To Be' stood out to me for its earnest lyrics and heartfelt vocals.

Finally, 'Come With Me' is a darker cut from the album with some fantastic production from Mr Harrison once again.

'Look, you don't have to take this. You can come with me.'

A great collaboration Amerie released around this time is the LL Cool J duet 'Paradise'. With its sunny video and happy vibe, this was a great summer track to chill to back in 2005.

'Paradise is very nice!' Haha gotta love LL!

2005 was a very busy year for Amerie, who also recorded a track for the 'Honey' soundtrack called 'When I Think of You'. It's a nice song and could easily have slotted onto the 'Touch' album.

Amerie performed numerous live shows around this time, after the colossal success of '1 Thing', but my standout live performance would have to be her appearance at the 2005 World Music Awards. As a tribute to Destiny's Child, Teairra Mari, Rihanna and Amerie came together to perform 'Lose My Breath'. It's so weird to look back on this, as since then, Rihanna's popularity has just grown and grown while the other two have become less well-known but for me, Amerie definitely steals the show here. Singing Michelle's part towards the end, Amerie sounds incredible and looks great in that purple cocktail dress (What the hell are the other two wearing?). If you haven't seen it, you've gotta click play right now!

In 2007, Amerie returned with her third album 'Because I Love It'.

'Because I Love It' was Amerie's first release that didn't feature super producer Rich Harrison. The project was reportedly inspired by 80s music and saw Amerie work with a variety of people, including Cee-Lo Green who co-wrote the lead single 'Take Control'. I always though the heist idea for the video was a little bit silly but the track is so great that it doesn't matter. While it may not have the immediacy of '1 Thing', 'Take Control' is a slinky up tempo number that sees Amerie in flirty mode. In Asia, Amerie released a new version of the song featuring Korean singer Seven, due to her love of K-pop. That girl was ahead of her time. She should come back now with a Gangnam Style remix! Here's the K-pop version of 'Take Control'.

'Why don't you come a little closer?' - Ha I love that line at the end!

The song was a hit but follow up single 'Gotta Work' did not fare as well and Amerie was dropped from her label. Because of this, 'Because I Love It' was ultimately never released in America, which I think is just absurd after the critical acclaim it received and the fact that she had been so popular just a few short years before. I don't want to blame 'Gotta Work' as it is a fun energetic track but there were much better songs from the album she could have chosen for the second single release. Judge for yourself and watch the video here.

'Some Like It' is such an incredible song and I personally think it's up there with Amerie's best. Had she released this bizarre 80s style cut from the album, it would have made Amerie stand out from the crowd and could have been a huge success if promoted properly. The production is phenomenal and I love all the random spoken word bits. 'Now whatcha gonna do when A catches an attitide?' If you listen to any song on this entire post, make it this one!

'Slide over next to me... hi I'm Amerie!'

For a more chilled out Amerie, check out 'When Loving U Was Easy'.

Finally, my other favourite track from 'Because I Love It' is actually the bonus song 'Losing U'. God knows how this didn't make it onto the regular tracklisting. I love the attitude Amerie shows off here, complimented by the synthy production and chilled backing vocals. Amerie has never been so sassy! I honestly believe that this could have been an amazing single.

After the disappointing sales of 'Because I Love It', Amerie released a collaboration with Chingy called 'Fly Like Me'. She sounds great on the track but I don't really rate Chingy as a rapper. Here's the official video.

In 2009, Amerie returned with a new label and a fourth album titled 'In Love and War'.

This release saw Amerie suffer more disappointing sales but the quality of the songs continues to remain high. I think lead single 'Why R U' is one of her best singles to date, with a powerhouse chorus and a beautiful video. The only reason I can think of for why this song did not perform well is that RnB in general was declining in popularity by this point, which is such a shame. Check out the awesome video here.

For her second single from 'In Love and War,' Amerie opted for a more futuristic sound for 'Heard Em All' and the promo reflects that with its production design and freaky outfits. Amerie sounds and looks as fantastic as ever but once again, the song and video failed to make much of an impact.

'It's Amerie, I took a little time out, took a vacation but boys I'm back!'

The third video for the album featured rapper Fabulous on the track 'More Than Love'. Amerie shows another side to her personality with this simple relationship-based video and while it doesn't grab you as immediately as the previous two singles, it should still have been more of a hit than it was. Just ignore the LONG spoken word intro.

In 2012, Amerie announced that she would be releasing a new album titled 'Cymatika Vol 1'. Weird I know but apparently its based on cymatics, which is about the study of visible sound and vibrations (thanks wiki!). 2013 will also see Amerie release an EP called 'The Prelude', that features the song 'Every Time', which has been doing the rounds online.

I like the song but I think Amerie needs to return with a more exciting hit if she's going to make her comeback. Bizarrely, Amerie has also announced a change in her name, from Amerie to Ameriie. The additional I is said to reflect positive energy or something but to be honest, I really don't see the point at all as the pronunciation will apparently stay the same anyway! No matter. All I care about is seeing Amerie (Ameriie?) back on top of the game where she belongs. I for one can't wait to hear the new material.

What do you think is Amerie's best song? And do you think she still has a shot at making that successful comeback? Let me know by commenting below and remember to like and share! Come back next week for another edition of Whatever Happened To RnB. Thanks for reading.



  1. I just discovered your blog & love it! I'm an Amerie stan - love everything about her: intelligent, talented, driven. My favorite songs of hers are: The Flowers & Paint Me Over. Although I believe that any artist is one hit away from a comeback, sadly I don't see a huge comeback for A - the pop audience never really "got" her and r&b fans don't seem to buy entire albums anymore.

  2. Thank you, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog! Amerie is so ridiculously underrated. I love Paint Me Over as well, that's one of my favourite tracks off 'Because I Love It' but I only had room to share a few songs. I completely agree with what you're saying about the pop and r&b audiences. Despite the success of other tracks, 1 Thing led most people to see her as kind of a one hit wonder. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I am a huge Amerie fan and always keep up with her music! It's good to know that someone else recognizes her amazing talents and abilities. Still my favorite album is ALL I HAVE but I have all of her albums. I loved all of them. I also think she has a great personality to go with her beauty. Such a shame she is not getting the recognition she deserves. I think she needs a new team.

    1. I completely agree. I think that's the main problem for some of the these RnB stars who have lost the limelight. They just need a better team behind them. Rihanna started around a similar time to Amerie but when RnB became less fashionable, she moved with the times more. Now I'm not saying Amerie should sell out and become a dance act but she needs to stay relevant for a mainstream audience.
      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Your blog was very straight to the point and on point might i add, I personally loved everything she come out with from "all I have" "touch" "love and war" and one or two from her 80s inspired album, amerie is by far one amongst the most talented out there her unique and creative drive which reflects in her music she needs to come back most certainly but this time with a much stronger grown woman approach not scared to be sexy a nd not scared to be fiercer than "heard em all" I just feel she has to take a close look as u stated at the industry unfortunately real RnB isn't sort after as much anymore but I believe with the right tweaking she can really recapture the attention she lost because she's very under-rated thing with amerie is she ain't commercial and that's what everyone loves but I think she can set a new ground for sure. Omg a collab with timberland would be perfect for her to be honest she needs a boost

    1. Hi thanks for the feedback. I agree that Amerie is definitely one of the most talented RnB artists out there but like you say, she needs to take a look at the industry and plan a proper comeback. Traditional RnB just doesn't cut it at the moment with the way the industry is currently.

  5. I think that the issue for Ameriie is that her vocals aren't well suited to the style of music she is trying to sing. I hope she migrates more to pop music; her K-pop version of "Take Control" was the best of all--it truly sounded like a mainstream song that would perform well.

    1. I loved that version of 'Take Control'! I'd certainly like to hear more pop vocals from Ameriie although I do think she has a place in RnB too

  6. Honestly David, I think Amerie is at her best in the summer time.

    I noticed most of her hit songs like Why Don't We Fall In Love summer (2002), 1 thing summer (2005) were her big singles in the summer.

    I believe she should feature her Def Jam label mate Ludacris on a 2nd single or something.

    Those two had great chemistry on the WDWFIL remix, it would be a good look for both artist.

    Luda, brings that energy when it comes to features, and they're good friends.

    She could also do a Rnb track with Jhene Aiko or maybe even Ne-yo.

    I think she has what it takes, but she's mostly a summer type artist.

    1. Amerie's biggest hits definitely have a summer vibe. 1 Thing ruled the summer of 2005 single handedly.
      I'm also a big fan of Ludacris and Ne-Yo, either could help kickstart her career once again.I don't know Jhene Aiko though, will def check her out now you've recommended her. Thanks!

  7. Thanx for the feed back David, I also wanted to add Amerie had that one feature with Trey Songz *pretty brown eyes* that for whatever reason didn't get any radio play.

    Chemistry wise looking at Amerie, she has good chemistry with Nas album wise.

    Production wise as you mentioned David, Rich Harrison.

    And radio play feature wise Ludacris, she should get Luda in the summer time.

    If she goes back to her roots with Nas, Luda, and Rich Harrison.

    She should be back on track, and she could still experiment with her new sound as well.

    1. To be honest, I was never a big fan of Pretty Brown Eyes.
      I love her Nas collaborations but he isn't particularly popular himself these days so I wonder how much impact another duet would have on the charts.
      Rich Harrison all the way for me. You never know, it could happen again one day for her!