I like Amerie. Not that she has much of an image, but she still seems like such a sweet and positive young woman. A Georgetown graduate, her humbleness exudes in interviews as she basks in her childhood dream with the giddiness of a schoolgirl. When her first single exploded, the world was introduced to her sitting on a park bench singing wholeheartedly those rhetorical words, "Why don't we fall in love?" The hip-hop track with the defined R&B voice, championed upon the winning chemistry mastered by the likes of Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans.
Naturally the anticipation was bubbling for her forthcoming All I Have. Even with all her charming characteristics, the brains, the voice and the looks, her debut is, well, boring. As I listened to the 12 tracks (11 if you dismiss the outro), I strained to find some spice, some personality. The tracks run into each other to the point that they become one very long song. The singular topic of love and relationships heightens its monotony, as does her lack of serious vocal experimentation. If you thought she sounded a little flat on "Why Don't We Fall in Love", prepare yourself for a few more out of range notes.
The album is by no means Pretty Girl Who Can't Sing revisited. It is worth the space in your CD collection, and has some bright moments. In terms of mood, it's very laid-back, with a rainy day or I-just-fell-in-love vibe, and one you can listen to at work. I must warn that you have already heard the most animated track on the album and probably more times than you would've liked as her first single was definitely killed by the radio. Her second single, "Talkin' to Me" is cute, and a little catchy, but a little personality deficient. The songs that really carry the album are "I Just Died" and "Show Me". Both are quiet storm ballads in which her vocals are richer, not as forced (quieter) and dance hand-in-hand with sexy hooks that allow the track to take the lead.
The title track "All I Have" would have made a better second single as it shows the potential that Amerie has to explore the love ballad, the real meat and potatoes of the album.
Props should go to Rich Harrison who is largely responsible for this project. He performed all the instruments, and wrote and produced all the songs except the outro. Besides being crazy talented, he is certainly a man in tune with his emotions, writing highly sensitive and female-perceptive lyrics perfect for any R&B diva. His tracks are simple yet artful and truly designed to let the singer define them. Unfortunately, this was not a consistent trend on All I Have because Amerie's vocals were not always compelling enough to fittingly dominate the track. There were times when all was lost.
For her first run, it might have been in the label's best interest to employ a few hit makers. You know the ones that can make a hit for anyone despite their vocal capability. Not saying that Amerie is without, it just might have added a little pizzazz if she would have joined the Jermaine Dupri or even Darkchild roster list. But maybe that is what remixes are for.
In her bio, Amerie proudly (as she should be) describes her debut, "The music and lyrics really put you into a zone. When Rich Harrison and I began creating the record, we knew that fusing beautiful melodies with hard, hip-hop beats would move people. I think we've accomplished that."
I only wish. Well maybe next time -- and hopefully there will be another time. Her debut was respectable, simple and unpretentious. The ingredients are there, she just needs to perfect the mix.