Here Comes the Drums

Songstress Amerie and producer Rich Harrison are reinventing the art of R&B

In addition to Harrison, Amerie worked with Miami producer Red Spyda (known for his work with 50 Cent and G-Unit), as well as producers Dre & Vidal and Bryce Wilson. Amerie further breaks down her new album's tough-love sensibility: "I'm in a different place than I was before," she says. "I wanted the album to reflect me, and I feel like the songs are more confident, more assertive. I feel like people knew me on the last album, but it was a single-faceted version of me. I was the nice girl, the cute goody-goody."

All that may soon change with the sizzling title track and obvious second single, courtesy of his royal crunkness, Lil Jon. A cross between Britney Spears's "I'm a Slave 4 U" and Ciara's "Goodies," the song reveals what Amerie's fans got a sneak peak of when she appeared in last year's teen comedy First Daughter. Playing the role of Mia Thompson, Katie Holmes's sexy roommate, Amerie proved she could also be a very bad girl.

At the end of the day, though, Amerie is a perfectionist. So when it comes to her music and image, she likes to have control. "I executive-produced the album [with manager Lenny Nicholson], and I wrote or co-wrote all the songs," she says. "I co-directed the video, and I was instrumental in the album packaging, from the colors of the pages to the photo shoot. I like to be the one in control of my own ship." Hence the cohesiveness, deliberate seductiveness, and near flawlessness of Touch.

Sometime actress and full-time star Amerie wants to bring back soul 
Courtesy of Sony Urban Music
Sometime actress and full-time star Amerie wants to bring back soul music


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What's the secret to this duo's success? Like all great artists, Harrison found his muse in Amerie, who inspired him to create a refreshingly new kind of R&B that's simultaneously new and old, strange and familiar.

"I'm not trying to blow my own horn, but I get a lot of people coming up to me saying, 'Thank you for bringing it back to beats; thank you for bringing it back to hardness,'" says Harrison. "To me this is just a journey, and I don't know where it's going to lead me. I guess I really just want to change the game ... make it cool for people to be new and old, which is what hip-hop's always been." And, consequently, what R&B should sound like.

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