Happy 10th Anniversary to Amerie’s Because I Love It, originally released May 15, 2007.
Upon its release in 2002, Amerie's debut LP All I Have won over listeners from both sides of the age gap in mainstream R&B―an accomplishment that was becoming increasingly rare at the dawn of the 2000s. The fresh-faced soul singer's first record had been written and produced, in its totality, by Rich Harrison. While it was Amerie’s distinct, perfumed singing style that made the album’s first single “Why Don’t We Fall in Love?” a hit, critics unfairly placed the credit at Harrison's feet.
Amerie turned the board over and started a new game three years later with her 2005 sophomore set, Touch. Amerie retained Harrison’s services, but stepped up to co-write 10 of the 11 tracks on the project and roped in several other co-writers/producers of her choice. The shift in power didn't go unnoticed by her record label Columbia, who did contest several of her directives, notably launching “1 Thing” as the record's first single. She was vindicated when “1 Thing” became an across-the-board smash, securing a Grammy nomination for “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” in 2006 and pushing Touch to gold selling status.
The long player gained her considerable artistic control, removing the misconception of the singer as an inactive participant in her music from the critical conversation. Her third full-length effort Because I Love It sought to consolidate and expand upon her newfound autonomy.
The core of Because I Love It is its celebration of black music, in several of its forms. To commence this fête, Amerie amicably parted ways with Harrison. Enter Bink!, CeeLo Green, The Buchanans, Chris & Drop, One Up, and Bryan Michael-Cox among others, all of whom were assembled by Amerie herself. The collected talents brought their own spice to Because I Love It, but Amerie kept the record on course to its destination. She wrote and arranged every track on the long player with her collaborators, another major step forward during a period when women in mainstream black music weren't taking such a direct hand in the construction of their material.
Opening with the brass seared “Forecast” and closing on the piano led downtempo “All Roads,” Because I Love It weaved an aural portrait that tapped Curtis Mayfield (“Make Me Believe”) Polydor Records-era James Brown (“Hate2LoveU”), gauzy Minneapolis funk (“Crazy Wonderful”), and just an incidental dab of go-go soul (“Gotta Work”). Her ability to blur the lines between her own compositional swagger and a smart clutch of samples showcased an adroit musical mind. An example of this was the set's initial single, “Take Control.” With its sprightly mod guitar riffs and percussion inflections, one could hardly tell where Tom Zé's “Jimi Renda-Se” and Hall & Oates “You Make My Dreams” began and Amerie’s own genius ended.
The fall of 2006 saw Columbia Records move forward with “Take Control” (US #66, UK #10, UK R&B #5) as the start-up single for Because I Love It domestically and internationally. The label's support was soft from the beginning. The second single “Gotta Work” (UK #21, UK R&B #6) was earmarked the following spring in 2007, but no American date for the parent album was made known. Columbia moved forward with releasing the record in the United Kingdom on May 15, 2007, and it was met with acclaim and reached silver certification (UK Official Albums Chart #17, UK Official R&B Albums Chart #4).
The record languished at home in the United States, held at bay by Columbia for some inexplicable reason. By the time it received a physical release in September 2008, Amerie had already departed Columbia Records. But, she was rewarded with the album receiving positive reviews in America as it had in England. Sadly, the record wouldn't make landfall on any Billboard chart.
Amerie debuted her fourth album, In Love & War (2009), on Island/Def Jam and while it was another excellent project, label politics shuttered its prospects once again. In the ensuing decade, she pursued her other passion, literature. She's currently at work penning two novels, but hasn't forsaken her first love, music. While her fifth album Cymatika is nearing completion, she issued her extended play Drive digitally (and independently) in 2016 to an enthusiastic reception from the music press and fans.
“[Because I Love It’s] just a continuation of [my] creativity,” Amerie declared matter-of-factly during a 2007 interview while promoting the album. At a time when innovation in modern rhythm and blues wasn't necessarily encouraged, Amerie dared to innovate. And that remains the heart of her story, her capacity to take control.
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