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In Love & War

Amerie

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Album Review

After "1 Thing" hit the Top Ten of the Hot 100 during the spring of 2005, Amerie was basically invisible. A follow-up single only grazed the Hip-Hop/R&B chart. Released in 2007, the adventurous Because I Love It, the singer's next album — and, ironically, best work — wasn't even issued in the U.S., possibly because its lead single slid off the chart within two weeks. Now on Def Jam, Amerie returns with In Love & War, an album that is much more creative than its title indicates while also playing out a bit like Because I Love It redux. Even with a few recycled ideas and the unlikeliness that she'll have another "1 Thing," the singer has made a second excellent album without the help of Rich Harrison. She works with another assortment of co-producers and co-writers, including Eric Hudson, Sean Garrett, Warryn Campbell, Rico Love, Jim Jonson, Bryan-Michael Cox, and even Teddy Riley. As on Because I Love It, all the high-energy material is packed into the first half, where Amerie lays down the law, accosts, and flirts, and she even manages to seem in control when she falls into a romantic trap. "Why R U" is a reminder that no one is better when it comes to breathing new life into a familiar breakbeat, while "Higher" is surprisingly rocking, reined in just before spinning out of control. The first half is even better when it cools down a few degrees, as on the rewrite of Mint Condition's "Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)," featuring Trey Songz, and "More Than Love," where Amerie rides more Kool & the Gang horns and gets into an amusing spat with Fabolous. "Swag Back" through "Dear John" is all subdued and deals mostly with the war side — accepting a lost cause, escaping "a living hell," and recovering from it — though "You're a Star" and "Red Eye" provide a reprieve, with the latter the album's only true slow jam. Its alluringly bleary synthesizer cleverly enhances Amerie's half-awake mile-high-club state of bliss. Heartbreak ballads like "The Flowers" and the "Paint Me Over"-like "Different People" might put off those who have an aversion to melodrama, but they are as well constructed as anything earlier in the set.

Biography

Born: 1980 in Fitchburg, MA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Pop-oriented R&B singer Amerie, the daughter of a Korean mother and an African-American father who was a career military member, grew up on bases from Alaska to Germany. As a youth, she gained an appreciation of the classical arts (from her mother) and of music (from her father), and she also studied dance from an early age and performed in talent contests. After her high-school graduation, her family settled down in Virginia while she began to attend Georgetown University, from which she later...
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In Love & War, Amerie
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