Amerie: Touch

Sony Urban Music/Columbia


By now you've probably heard Amerie's genius "1 Thing," made up of two shards of a Meters break clattering up against each other, while guitar stabs erect the scaffolding of a chord change. On top of the yawning empty spaces is Amerie's clear, slightly acidic voice, mapping her own empty spaces: the "1 thing" is the un-nameable trick that made her fall for him, the bastard. She's lost in the disembodied possession that comes with euphoria, the same hot topic that got the medieval inventors of love so antsy (she has an English degree from Georgetown, you know). "Hear voices I don't wanna understand," she sings, "The car keys are juggling in my hand/My high heels are clicking towards your door."

Amerie Rogers has writing credits on all but one song, but this is as much producer Rich Harrison's album. On "1 Thing" the D.C. native has returned to the undeniability of his earlier calling card, Beyoncé's disco-horn-driven "Crazy in Love." Harrison prefers sampling to the futurist synth gleam of Timbaland-style millennial R&B. His classicism might seem like a retreat to the real, but it's not mere retro. His loops are cut together with audacious seam-showing blockiness; we get the comfort of a familiar texture and the thrill of its irruption. On "All I Need" he repeats a sax and vocal scrap until it lifts off into abstraction, like saying "cellar door" over and over again.

The album doesn't lose its feet too much when other producers take over: Lil Jon tries out some tabla orientalism, the Buchanans pass for the Neptunes, and other R&B hands fill out the back half with the twinkly bedroom stuff that the readers of this paper will find totally unconvincing.

The mood is pensive but focused, and more than anything, Touch has a sure eagerness to get it right (Amerie and Harrison's '02 debut, All I Have was just okay). She knows the real romantic trial is with the public, but on "Talkin' About" she's clear: "Couldn't stop if I wanted to/So baby if you take my hand/Every day can feel brand new."

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