All I Have

by: Amerie

The debut album by 22-year-old Amerie is basically a showcase for writer/producer Rich Harrison, who constructs a series of mid-tempo rhythm tracks and writes lyrics of romantic longing. Harrison's lack of originality is suggested by his inability even to come up with new song titles: Among the tracks here are newly written songs entitled "Need You Tonight," "Got to Be There," and even "I Just Died" (that's right, "in your arms"). Amerie has a pleasant-enough voice that she uses to express a tempered fervor and a degree of eroticism, but she seems to be just another modestly talented performer chosen mostly for her looks; record companies seem to be on an endless search for attractive young women of mixed racial heritage (apparently in hopes of demographic crossover) who can carry a tune, and this willing Georgetown graduate with a Korean mother and African-American father is just the latest in a long line. None of which is to say that she won't succeed (record companies make a lot of money taking such bets), but at least on the basis of her debut album, Amerie has nothing to recommend her beyond a fairly anonymous surface appeal. ~ William Ruhlmann

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