Because I Love It
ife isn’t fair. Sure, that’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Otherwise, it wouldn’t rain on days when you have something important planned. Or it wouldn’t cost so much for something as important as a college education. Or, say, the ratings wouldn’t be so criminally low for NBC’s outstanding Thursday night comedy block.
From a musical standpoint, I think we can agree to chalk up Amerie Rogers’ career trajectory to inherent unfairness. This military brat turned Georgetown grad turned major label upstart seemed to be a complete package: beautiful, smart, and gifted. If that weren’t enough, she was also playing the role of Aaliyah to Rich Harrison’s Timbaland. However, after the massive success of “Crazy in Love,” the powers that be deemed Harrison too important to be working with someone as anonymous as Amerie, so they hijacked their next collaboration and offered it to the talent succubus that is Jennifer Lopez. Indeed, if Amerie hadn’t taken the master tape and released it to radio herself, we might’ve never heard “1 Thing.”
Fast forward two years: Amerie’s career is a mess. Her newest album, Because I Love It was originally planned to be released almost a year ago, yet her label Columbia shelved the project. And while every other country in the world has had the opportunity to hear this record (legally) since early May, it isn’t until now that the album sees release in the U.S. Quite a shame, too, because this is some pretty impressive work.
As with a vast percentage of modern urban music, the album’s production seems to be rooted in ‘60s soul and ‘80s R&B.; However, rather than meld bits and pieces of each style (paging Sean Kingston), Because I Love It essentially alternates between the two, making each song more of a genre exercise than a fusion.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘60s-influenced tracks are far and away the more interesting. Much of that has to do with Amerie’s vocal performances. “Hate 2 Love U” and “Gotta Work” are on-point rave-ups of James Brown and Stax, respectively, while “Paint Me Over” is vintage Dionne Warwick, complete with drawn-out phrasing. They walk the fine line between homage and imitation, but Amerie’s singing is fervent and willing, commanding these songs more than interpreting them. Most impressive is lead single “Take Control.” Built around a sample of Tom Zé’s tropicalia classic “Jimmy, Renda-Se” and co-written by Cee-Lo, Amerie’s turn as a completely submissive lover oozes sensuality with every hushed breath; if this were sung by Beyoncé, it’d be deemed the second coming.
Of course, Because I Love It isn’t perfect. The ‘80s-esque tracks that dominate the second half of the record are mid-tempo, making it difficult to differentiate the great (“Crazy Wonderful”) from the middling (“That What U R”). It doesn’t help that Amerie’s hardly a world class balladeer. She doesn’t do melodrama with the gusto of, say, a Mariah Carey, which is exactly the persona these songs are tailored for.
While its backstory is lamentable, we can at least be thankful that Because I Love It is finally seeing a proper release. If things work out for the best, it’ll make Amerie the global superstar she’s always shown she had the potential to be. But at this point, it’d be just as good to merely see her sell a couple hundred thousand albums and continue her stellar career. Now, if we can just get a few more people to start watching 30 Rock…
Reviewed by: Andrew Casillas
Reviewed on: 2007-08-17