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.

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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