Ever have one of those moments when you go on YouTube and get sucked into a shit ton of old music that were straight vibes. I did that recently - an absolute deep dive - and was presented with the question by my managing Editor Chris….Why is Amerie not as famous as Beyonce?
Initially I’m like what? We got Lemonade in the fridge go sip you some! The Gaul! Then it hit me. Here’s a young man who is well versed in music but can get seminally lost by some genres. It happens we all have music blind spots. Nonetheless he proceeds to say “in 2001 Amerie is interesting talented and the music is amazing, she had hits why is she not as major as Beyonce? If anything just based off looking at her she is infinitely more interesting.” Now don’t get it construed Amerie is drop dead gorgeous but he meant her presentation. Let’s highlight a couple points to further support this query:
1. We first get introduced to Amerie in 2001/2002
2. She’s Korean and African American (I know what you’re thinking hear me out)
3. She’s visually and fashionably progressive
4. She has a steady stream of popular singles and several breakout songs that hit on mainstream/global and commercial levels but no cigar
Its 2001 the beginning of a super surge of Female R&B artists and groups; the majority of us hear/see Amerie for the first time on the hook of Nas’s single Rule. 2001 was a heavy hitter year for music especially R&B. That year was our introduction to Alicia Keys, Destiny’s child reminded us to be independent women and Janet let us know it was All for you. Let’s not forget we were completely eclipsed by one person that year……Aaliyah. After her untimely death and insanely amazing self-titled album she was the major player that year and biggest loss in the same breath. It was an incredible year for music and Amerie started to murmur in the sea of music the radio fed us. Remember kids this was B.T. (Before Twitter).
In 2002 Amerie releases her first single Why Don’t We fall in Love. It was hard to not fall in ‘love’ with this song and wish it was longer than 2 minutes and 39 seconds. She came back again with second single Talking to me that was just as well received. Both charted on Billboard and both got a ton of radio play. (Remember this B.T. that mattered a lot) Take into account she wasn’t alone in the female R&B category. Here’s an idea of who Amerie was up against:
- · Ashanti (SO MANY BABY - BABY - BABIESSSSS)
- · Jennifer Lopez
- · Beyonce (No destiny or child….But Jay Z was there)
- · Nivea
- · Brandy
- · India Arie
- · Aaliyah (Care For you came out her last full length album with new unreleased music)
- · Mariah Carey
- · Alicia Keys
- · Tweet (Oops oh my vibes)
- · Erykah Badu
- · Christina Aguilera (This was Stripped era, shawty went soulful on us)
Amerie’s Debut album All I Have entered the Billboard charts at number 9 and while she was prosperous it was a big year to be a female R&B artist in general. She was under Columbia records at the time and for an introductory EP it was a successful one. Was she catapulted into major stardom? No. Did this make Amerie a solidified artist? Yes. Is it fair to say her peers in the R&B category were tough? Absolutely! This supports point one, we get acquainted with her over the course of two major years in music. Among the amazing artists the huge shift to the internet hadn’t begun and Amerie hopped on the scene right before its inception.
Not too shortly after Chris made his observation our fashion director Maddy slams her drink down and passionately says, “…and she was Asian! She was representing the media wasn’t ready for that!”
To some effect maybe they - or we - weren’t. While there’s no previous coverage from her career detailing her ethnicity as a variable in her fleeting success as a singer as opposed to her label; it is still an important part of her as an artist. Quite frankly Amerie was representing! The Asian community hadn’t to that point had a major artist that garnered mainstream success. Think about the voracious amount of music we intake nowadays, it has no color, creed or face. In our society it is simply a link on a platform that can be a launch pad to a thriving career in the music industry. We have musicians and artists of all backgrounds but in many ways Amerie carved a path for Asian Americans and mixed kids alike. Without Amerie would we have Yuna or Jhene Aiko?
I think it is safe to say Amerie was undervalued. She was an impact on a cultural level. Maybe we weren’t ready for an Asian American R&B singer? Now we are with open arms thanks to Amerie.
We all nodded our heads in agreement with Maddy at that moment while looking at the video for Amerie’s second single Talking to me. We continued down the video playlist completely enveloped in the Amerie experience. Out of habit we started to google the release years for the videos and then I realized Amerie fashionably was on point every single time…..e-v-e-r-y TIME!
First here’s a reminder of 2001-2002, the not so great fashion moments (this is like reverse shade but for educational purposes it has to be done)
Why don’t we fall in Love & Talking to me (All I Have Album 2002 – 2003):
1thing (Touch Album 2005):
Touch (Touch Album 2005):
Gotta Work (Because I Love it Album 2007):
Why R U & More Than Love (In Love and War album 2009):
Can we just take a moment to realize, that in 2002 she’s wearing things that brands like Zara and Topshop are carrying now. Leather culottes like hello! She’s timeless. The early 2000’s was to put it nicely a very convoluted period in fashion. Labels upon labels, bling and heavily embellished anything and everything was the mark of those that were fashionably astute. Meanwhile Amerie gracefully waltzed in demure compared to her counterparts. That’s no small feat nor is it coincidence. In 2005 Amerie did an interview with MTV and broke her small silence on the heels of her next release. (We will get into that later) She says:
“My last album dealt with the emotional side of relationships,” the 25-year-old said. “It was also more- mellow. I didn’t really touch on my sexuality. This album is a lot more up-tempo. I’ve grown in the last two years. Usually when people say that, the next thing you know they’re rolling around naked, but that’s not what I mean.”
That was quite literally what she did and continued to do fashion wise. Aiding in the support to point 3, she was never in fits no less than perfection. If every female were to look at her videos and then look in their closet, I guarantee you they’d have one of the outfits.
Amerie released her second full length EP Touch which had her most famous song to date. She teamed up with producer Rich Harrison to create Go-Go inspired track 1 Thing. The song shot up the charts to number 8. Not only has that the song taken on a shape of its own, even over a decade later it has been remixed hundreds of times. Touch as a whole on the other hand was not a mainstream success and didn’t peak interest in the same way that her debut album All I have did. Touch received a mere 7.6 rating from Pitchfork and was in general banked heavily on the back of 1things success in the media. This resulted in a follow-up single being almost obsolete. The album came and went but 1 thing still lived on and continues to do so eventually becoming a platinum selling single.
She continued to release new music, following up her Touch EP with 2007 release Because I love it overseas. The two singles Take Control and That’s what U R barely registered within the music sound scope and the album didn’t see the light of the day in the U.S. until years later. She took a small hiatus and returned with her fourth studio album In Love and War in 2009 via new label Def Jam. In a turn of events that seemingly looked like a promising future she had monetary success with the singles. Why R U and More Than Love featuring Fabolous had radio play but not enough to crack the charts. Meanwhile her R&B counterparts Keyshia Cole, Keri Hilson, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson were sprawled throughout the billboard list in 2009. Not surprisingly Beyoncé was leading the pack with several songs from her I am…Sasha Fierce album. Unfortunately nothing sparked from the release and the album came and went. While she was and still is a beloved songstress her referential portion in this music world gets diminished to queens of the past lists and “where are they now” articles. Point four cannot be minimized in this argument however. While she wasn’t a success in the likes of Rihanna or Ciara, she was a full-fledged R&B singer of the early 2000’s and she made her mark. Why is she not a music diva even though she started with the women who are now our generation’s future legends?
Well more often than not we hear of shelved or mismanaged artists. While Amerie’s journey as an artist in the music industry isn’t as documented she had plenty of obstacles. In fact her most coveted song 1Thing was going to be given to someone else. After back and forth with the label and a daunting amount of revisions at the request of Columbia they decided it was meant for someone else. (Like Jennifer Lopez) Amerie decided to go against them and took the track to radio stations which took to the song immediately. Even after the fact Columbia wanted the song off the air; the pressure mounted they gave in and backed the song as Amerie’s first single for the album. Not long after Amerie parted ways with Columbia which predisposed her overseas release of Because I love it to easily fade into the music mush. While her time at Def Jam seemed like a more promising path it to didn’t do her justice.
The conspiracy theorist in me however is pro Amerie x the internet who now goes by Ameriie. She is working on her next studio album has a thriving YouTube channel and released new music on her SoundCloud. As artists nowadays are navigating the internet to gain a platform, fan base and steady money stream the singers and rappers from the early 2000’s are on the same journey. Conspiracy theorist aka me thinks that her past has proven Ameriie to be more akin to a talent we find on the internet. I think her being “re-discovered” will benefit her music. The biggest factor to that is simply because labels aren’t needed anymore. Ameriie was before her time and there’s nothing like drinking Henny and dancing to all of her music to remind you of that.