Amerie — “1 Thing”

Released: 3.22.05

Peak: #8

Rich Harrison’s star loomed high in 2004. Seeking to capitalize upon the success of “Crazy in Love,” the potential super-producer hit upon a simple idea–sample beats rather than hooks. Not a new idea. After its productive fling with James Brown in the ’80s, hip-hop had abandoned this quaint maneuver in the ’90s, first when Dre found it more profitable to reconstruct P-Funk licks in-studio, then when Puffy made the big money hook de rigeur. But the message of R&B from way back has been that beats can be hooky in themselves, as “1 Thing” was a timely reminder.

Harrison sampled a break from the Meters’ “Oh, Calcutta!” where Ziggy Modeliste’s drums face off against Leo Nocentelli’s guitar. With a few small additions (bongo, cowbell, cymbal), he translated New Orleans funk into a peculiarly weightless approximation of D.C. go-go — “a song without a center, without a floor or ceiling,” as Douglas Wolk smartly put it — and just when you’ve regained your bearings, a weird synth bit creeps in from underneath. And that anti-grav disconnectedness felt apt post-Katrina, with its sense of tradition unmoored and a-tumble.

Amerie’s contribution here shouldn’t be underrated. When she broke through a few years earlier, with “Talkin’ to Me” and “Why Don’t We Fall in Love,” she’d flashed an ingénue’s sensuality, flirty rather than post-coital. But whatever’s got her trippin’ here ain’t his smile, and she expresses a lust those early hits kept in check. And then? Well, Amerie’s follow-up album was released overseas only; the critical raves for her 2009 comeback In Love and War outpaced its sales figures. Harrison was absent from that disc–he already seems to have jettisoned into the ether reserved for potential super-producers who don’t hit it out of the park each at-bat. Even more unjustly, Amerie may soon join him there.

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Comments

  • Mike Price  On August 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    The Clipse version of this song from the We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. II mixtape is one of my favorite things ever.

  • usefulnoise  On September 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Was just listening to that Clipse album the other day. Definitely still holds up.

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