Amerie: Because I Love It [IMPORT]

Blah, blah, marketing budgets, blah, blah illegal downloading, blah, blah fickle consumers. We’re all familiar with the various excuses artists and labels use to explain away poor album sales. Of course, if you ask most consumers, they usually tell you that most CDs just aren’t worth their money. True or not, this makes it all the more frustrating when a deserving artist doesn’t get label support for her efforts. Such is the case with Amerie’s Because I Love It (Sony/BMG/Columbia), which has recently been released in Europe and Asia but currently has no American release date. Whatever the logic behind the decision, the album’s quality can’t be a part of it. While frequent collaborator Rich Harrison is missing in action, Because I Love It still supplies the sound that’s become Amerie’s signature. The hip-hop, funk and go-go elements blend smoothly to provide a live, big-band feel. “Hate 2 Love U” and “Gotta Work” deliver on expectations without coming off as formulaic. Amerie’s ability to convey excitement without sounding insane is akin to Diana Ross (who only sounds crazy when she speaks, not sings). No, her voice isn’t quite strong enough to “belt ‘em out” to the cheap seats, but she makes up for it with her range of attitudes. Her quirky Debbie Harry impression on “Some Like It” is an acquired taste, but the entertaining performance is brave, if nothing else.When stepping out of the club style and into something more sedate, the products are competent, though little more. While traditional ballads like “Somebody Up There” serve their purpose, they’re nothing memorable. The slow-jams are mostly a waste of real-estate since the high-tempo prospects are the main attraction. Amerie doesn’t fit neatly into any specific genre anyway, so she might as well leave the standard R&B fare to the army of standard R&B chicks available to sing them.To be fair, hits are never easy to predict, so it isn’t surprising that Columbia chose to hedge their bets by first releasing the album to the more flexible international markets. Still, both the album and Amerie herself have gotten so much right that one has to wonder where she would be if given a proper chance. Because I Love It may not be on the shelves of your local Target, but the internet has made it simple to order imports, so take the little bit of extra time. It’s worth it.