The new album by Amerie marks her debut for Def Jam after a three album stay with Columbia Records (Def Jam’s former home), with one of them never being released in Amerie’s home country. Has the move made an improvement in her music in anyway? Depends on your expectations and demands, and there lies the problem.
Half the time it’s hard to tell if In Love & War is an album she wants to make, or just something that meets the expectations and demands of what producers want from her. Do these songs show respect to Amerie as a singer, is it just a way to catch-in on current trends, or does someone wish to keep her doing constant revisions of “Why Don’t We Fall In Love”? To be honest, it’s a mixture of all three. That doesn’t mean Amerie is a bad singer, but don’t expect a drastic improvement over her last three albums. It’s Amerie as you’ve come to expect, someone who can carry a note decently and does it in such a way that she’s a lure and you’re going to be hooked. All of her songs are hook-savvy, whether it’s “Swag Back”, “The Followers”, or the love lost melancholy feeling of “Dear John”. What really hurts this album a bit is that it sounds like someone else. You can hear a bit of a Beyonce vibe here, maybe a sliver of Ciara‘s sexiness there, an attempt to outdo Rihanna around the way, and maybe in her mind she feels that that’s the way to gain the fans of other artists, try to manipulate them into thinking it’s them and not Amerie. If one wants that classic, back-in-the-day feeling she may have provided before, you can hear it in “Why R U”, featuring her and her background harmonies layered over a familiar breakbeat.
The one song I found to be exceptional is “Higher”, which has a funky rock edge and she takes it on and comes out like a champion without trying to sound like everyone else. I love how raspy her voice can get, one could argue that maybe she’s trying to crossover in a way that Rihanna has, but there’s a grit and groove in Amerie’s voice that Rihanna just doesn’t have. If she did more of this for the entire album, I think her older fans would cry sell-out, but it’s also a style that Nicole Scherzinger abandoned years ago when she collaborated with Days Of The New, and a style that Dawn Robinson did not have much success with as a solo artist.
Maybe the title of the album suggests that you’ll find everything you loved about her music here, but there’s a bit of a tug of war with what people want to hear from her and what must be done to take herself out of the limitations people have created out for her. The album as a whole may not be the breakout she may be looking for, but the seeds are being planted here.