Blessed with keen intelligence and stunning good looks, Amerie could have chosen any number of career paths. Yet from an early age, the 22-year-old R&B chanteuse knew what her future held. "It sounds like a cliché," she says, "but I always knew I was going to sing. I always knew that music was what I was going to do." You can hear that desire in Amerie's voice. It's a voice that's sweet, sassy, and sultry, with a hint of bad girl edge. Amerie's brand of soul is both infectious and intoxicating, and it's evident throughout All I Have, her sizzling Columbia debut. Asked to describe All I Have, Amerie offers, "The music and the lyrics really put you into a zone. When (producer/songwriter) 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."
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The proof can be heard in Amerie's 12-inch single, "Why Don't We Fall In Love." Leaked to radio in the spring of 2002, "Why Don't We Fall in Love" exploded, creating a strong buzz and heavy anticipation for Amerie's album. It's no wonder why the public and the programmers responded so enthusiastically. Laced with a sultry undercurrent, fueled by an uplifting message about finding your soulmate and being in love with your dreams, meanwhile propelled by Amerie's rock steady vocals, "Why Don't We Fall In Love" is more than a hot track; it's the opening salvo from a singer who has elevated the stakes for hip-hop soul.
What's remarkable about Amerie's rise is how fast it's occurred. She and Rich (whose previous credits include Mary J. Blige) began laying down the foundation for the album just two years ago, and now All I Have is showing the world just how much Amerie has got to give. "It's been pretty amazing," she admits. "We really worked hard on those songs and just let our creativity go. I guess this is what happens when you're focused, have good people around you, and trust your heart and your instincts."
Amerie's mother is from Korea and her dad is an African-American from North Philly. Amerie was raised in a military family, so the family moved often; she lived on bases from Alaska to Germany. The traveling stopped when the family moved to Virginia, and Amerie to Washington DC, which she has called home for several years.
Through her mother, who is a painter, singer, and classical pianist, Amerie was exposed to the arts. Bolstered by those influences, Amerie began gravitating towards pop and R&B, getting into Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton and Whitney Houston. Along with a healthy dose of divas and classical composers, Amerie dipped into her father's old soul collection. As she puts it, "My taste was pretty well-rounded."
With the love of music and the desire to perform driving her, Amerie started studying dance, and in the 3rd grade, began to enter talent shows, which she continued to do throughout high school. After high school graduation, Amerie's family moved from Alaska to the East Coast, and once she had settled into her new hometown, Amerie decided to take her dreams to the next level; she began looking for an opportunity to get into the music business. "Being in DC offered me more opportunities for singing and meeting other musicians," Amerie explains. Not only was she trying to break into the industry, but Amerie was also attending prestigious Georgetown University, where she graduated with a degree in English and Fine Arts.
Through a friend, Amerie was introduced to DC native Rich, whose production skills had already caught the ears of noted industry heavyweights Jeff Burroughs and Darryl Williams of Rise Entertainment and Edwin Holmes of EHM. Rich and Amerie got together, meeting for the first time in a McDonald's parking lot. "Not too glamorous, huh?" Amerie laughs. After Amerie heard Rich's tracks, and Rich heard her sing, the work began. Quickly she and Rich realized that they not only had common goals, but great creative chemistry as well. "We would just sit and brainstorm and it just flowed from there," she remembers. One song became two, two became three, and three grew to five, becoming a demo. Within months, that demo made its way to Columbia Records, where Amerie was immediately offered a deal. Soon, she was not only recording her own album, but also working on collaborations with labelmates Nas and Royce da 5' 9". "Writing on those songs, along with recording them, was a great experience for me," she says. "It really felt good to work with such respected artists."
From the moment Amerie entered the studio to record All I Have, she knew that she wanted to unleash a sound that was gritty, yet melodic. Pretty, yet tough. Something different, yet something familiar enough to entice listeners. Together, they married Rich's hard-edged beats and well-crafted melodies to Amerie's soaring vocals. You can hear the result in songs like the single, "Talkin' To Me." With its slinky steely guitars, an insistent groove, and Amerie's lilting vocal style, "Talkin' To Me" is a song that Amerie modestly describes as "'infectious.' It's about that chemistry you have with someone without even speaking." Then she adds, "There's a fresh feel to it; it's very cool and laid-back." The album offers smooth and jazzy love ballads like "Nothin' Like Loving You," while keeping the emotional level high with tracks like the edgy "I Just Died," which, as Amerie tells it, "is about a passion that is like no other."
Through all of this, Amerie makes sure to thank the One who made this all possible: "I wrote the outro, 'I'm Reminded,' as a thank-you to God for leading me to all of this. Through all the ups and downs and uncertainties, He was always in control. I was very passionate about my dreams, but I believe my parents' prayers really contributed to everything."
It's clear that passion is something that Amerie knows well. You can hear the passion and commitment to singing that has lead her to this point in her life and the making of this album. Now, she's getting the chance to live her dreams and bring her talent to the world. Ask Amerie what she wants fans to hear when they check out All I Have and her response is considered and thoughtful: "I'd like them to hear that this is real music. You can feel it. This music has substance, and in All I Have, you get a glimpse into Rich's life and mine as well." Amerie.
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