In 2002 an Army brat and aspiring singer exploded on the charts with a harmonious, innovative debut album entitled All I Have. Girlish, fierce, sexy and sweet, All I Have spawned the smash "Why Don't We Fall In Love" (produced by a then under-the-radar Rich Harrison) and let it be known that the new breed of hip hop/soul's chief practitioner was a 22-year-old, DC beauty named Amerie.
Three years later, with one gold album, two major tours, and one leading role in a major motion picture to her credit, singer/songwriter/actress Amerie is back, hotter and bolder than ever. Working once again with musical partner Harrison, as well as beat makers Dre and Vidal, Lil' Jon, Bryce Wilson, The Buchanans, Bink!, Red Spyda, and solo stars Carl Thomas, Nas, and Eve, Amerie has returned with a collection The New York Times has heralded as "...one of the year's most anticipated R&B albums. Touch boasts songs that come straight from Amerie's heart and soul."
"My first album was very well received," Amerie offers, "and I was really happy about that, but this time I had even more to say. I wanted to let my fans know more of who I am, as a woman and as an artist.
"Touch is a lot more multi-faceted and reflects where I am right now. After the last album, I toured, I helped develop a TV show, I was in a movie...I learned a lot about myself. I'm in a different place in my life now, and I wanted this album to reflect that. There was definitely a specific vision in mind and I had to carry it out."
And indeed, she has. Executive-producing the project, Amerie spent the last year-and-a- half writing and co-writing songs for her sophomore effort, drawing mostly from the personal experiences she had after the release of her first album. Touch shows off sides of Amerie that fans have been waiting for: More self-assured. More seductive. Able to play the coquette and then, with a knowing smile, rock your world. Open to being loving and supportive but no man's fool.
The album's sensual title track, produced by Lil' Jon, is undulating, urgent, and anchored by exotic instrumentation. Amerie calls it "my femmed out Lil' Jon track because it's got a sweet and sexy vibe but it still has that Jon flavor, and it's tailor-made for me."
As for the album's lyrical content, it's not what people might expect, which is why Amerie went there. "On All I Have," she confesses, "a lot of people saw me as being this goody goody, which isn't a problem but it's only one aspect of my personality. Before I even started writing for this album, I already knew I wanted to talk about things I didn't talk about before. That's why I named this album Touch. I wanted to reveal a little more of myself this time.
"On my first album, I didn't talk much about my sensuality, my sexuality. I just didn't feel like it. But I wanted to talk about the physical aspects of a relationship. I wanted to be in a not so good mood on a record; I wanted to have an attitude. Women can be loving and beautiful, but we can be spiteful and dangerous if you cross us."
That commanding message of personal empowerment may also be found on "Not The Only One," produced by former Groove Theory mastermind Bryce Wilson, co-produced by The Buchanans. Laced with wistful vocals set on top of an irresistible rhythm, "Not The Only One" relays some tough talk about men who cheat and the women who know about it. "'Not The Only One' is scary to a lot of guys who think they can cheat and their girl will just sit at home, waiting by the phone," says Amerie. "In the record, I'm saying that 'Yes, I'm still in love with you, but I know you're out there in the streets. I know you're messing around because you're using the same tactics I use when I come back home too.'" In the song, the woman definitely isn't a weakling, "but there is a certain sadness there, because I'm only doing what I'm doing because I'm resentful and hurt. Two wrongs definitely don't make a right, but the song isn't about right and wrong."
Another song dealing with the battle of the sexes is the assertive "Man Up," featuring Amerie's labelmate, Nas, with production by The Buchanans. "Women don't mind being the shoulder to cry on but we also want a man who can take care of himself and stand strong," Amerie says. "It's definitely a blunt message and a bit different because I've never shown this side before. I definitely have an attitude in this situation; I've reached my breaking point with this guy!" How was working with Nasir Jones? "He's great and really easy to work with," Amerie admits. "After I finished recording, I went next door to his session, and he just did his verse on the spot and was so cool."
Amerie shares her open-hearted, softer side on the Dre and Vidal produced record, "Just Like Me," in which she thanks her lucky stars she's in a relationship of total reciprocated love. "I believe a person can have a few loves, but only one 'you're my soulmate-you complete me' type love. You're blessed if you find that." And then there's the ultra-vulnerable "Falling," produced by Red Spyda. "I'm a true Capricorn, and I admit to being a complete control-freak," she laughs. "But falling in love can be so deliciously scary because you're having the time of your life, meanwhile leaving yourself open to being completely crushed. You feel like asking every other minute, 'But you're not going to hurt me, right?'"
When asked to define her powerhouse creative partnership with Rich Harrison--they met in 2000 through a mutual industry friend--Amerie replies, "We just fill in each other's blanks and have this great chemistry in the studio. We have very similar visions as to what we think is hot and what we'd like to hear."
That fruitful fission is nowhere more apparent than on "1 Thing," her first single, which takes the funky grooves of DC go-go to breathtaking new heights. But this isn't anything new for these two: "We had go-go elements on the first album, on a record called 'Need You Tonight,' which we recorded five years ago," says Amerie. "The radio stations in DC were playing it like crazy before the first album was even finished! We wanted to revisit that DC sound because it's something we knew people outside of the DC area weren't totally familiar with. Honestly, I think what we've come up with on '1 Thing' is unlike anything else out there."
Following the success of All I Have, Amerie did the unexpected. Rather than rush back into the studio to drop the follow-up, she opted to explore other avenues of expression. Always fascinated by acting, Amerie played a leading role in the Forest Whitaker-directed hit romantic comedy, "First Daughter," starring alongside Katie Holmes and Michael Keaton. Before that, she hosted and helped develop BET's television show, "The Center," which, during her run, garnered the highest ratings ever for any show in its time slot. Still, Amerie couldn't stay away from the studio long, but "I needed that time away from music in order to grow," she admits. "Sometimes it's best to walk away and then come back."
And come back she most definitely has: with a forward-thinking, hip-shaking, soulful album. "At the end of the day," Amerie offers, "the music speaks for itself. I really had a lot to get off my chest and there were specific ideas I wanted to express. And even though it's only my second album, I definitely think that I've established my own lane."
--- from the official Amerie website