Amerie – In Love & War
2.5 stars out of 5
Amerie’s back and she’s trying to get off of her one-trick pony to prove that she really has something to offer up and that we should keep on paying attention. Die hard fans of course are all about this record In Love & War – however, those fans who have liked an Amerie song or two could kind of care less. Amerie straddles the line yet again with an album chock full of boisterous rhythms, plaintive yet exuberant vocals and kitschy themes and concepts. Are we buying it though?
Where Amerie has always excelled is the interesting rhythms and backdrops that she has always had. As she drifted from the mastermind of her first album Rich Harrison, she had to find new and exciting producers (Eric Hudson, The Buchanans, Warryn Campbell) to give her a semblance of the same sound without boxing her IN to that sound as well. Not an easy task, but one that on this, her 4th album, she has done a good job of. You have to give it up to her in that aspect because the 1st half of the album proffers the goodies right from jump. All the relative bangers are front loaded, much to my glee. This is the area that Amerie is the most convincing in — quick, effervescent and tight jams that don’t give you too much time to listen to her voice.
It’s a back to back explosion full of drums, cymbals, kicks and snares starting with “Tell Me You Love Me”, all the way through to the very decent single “Why R U”. In this calvacade of uptempo and often staccato rhythms, you enjoy Amerie’s simple yet strong and effective vocal, which features a slight rock tinge this go-round. She is seemingly swallowed up in the music which distracts you a bit from her thin at times performances. We don’t go into an Amerie album expecting anything more, especially not at this point in her career.
She then shifts starting with “Why…” to a more downtempo state of mind with the Trey Songz assisted interpolation of Mint Condition’s “Pretty Brown Eyes”, and it starts heading downhill from there. While their duet is not terrible, it’s like a clash of vocal inadequacies, with Amerie’s mewing soprano lilt and Trey Songz distracting & quick vibrato. Despite that, it’s a decent version of this song in Amerie standards. It’s also one of the few features besides a Fabolous appearance and a Lil’ Wayne vocal tacked on to “Heard ‘Em All”.
Joints such as “Swag Back” and “Flowers” should have been left on the cutting room floor, and the Fabolous assisted “More Than Love” at times sounds out of tune and gets annoying quickly. Some fans like “Red Eye” but I think it leaves Amerie open to criticism vocally.
Overall, if you keep the first half of the album and ditch the rest, it’s not a bad album. The singles alone seem lame, but in the context of the rest of the album, they flow pretty well. Amerie is still around and kicking, but after this album it’s unknown if she will still be able to stay on a major label. Without a major shift or improvement or style change or SOMETHING, I’m guessing she’ll be taking the “Red Eye” to independent land, which may not be a bad thing in her case.