Picks and Pans Review: Amerie

UPDATED 05/09/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/09/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

R&B

Touch
[STARS 3]

On her 2002 hip-hop soul debut, All I Have, Amerie tried, with mixed results, to fill Mary J. Blige's Gucci heels. On this superior follow-up, the 27-year-old Washington, D.C., native sets her sights on another platinum-selling R&B diva, Beyoncé. And with the album's hot first single, "1 Thing," she nearly out-Beyoncés Beyoncé. The song, which first appeared on the Hitch soundtrack, plays like a sequel to Beyoncé's 2003 smash "Crazy in Love," with its old-school funk vibe, nonsensical vocal hooks and a booming drum break that sounds as if it were played by a marching band. All it's missing is a cool cameo from Jay-Z. Like "Crazy in Love," "1 Thing" was produced by Rich Harrison, the beatmaster behind Amerie's previous hit "Why Don't We Fall in Love" as well as most of Touch. In addition to rocking the clubs with tracks like the horn-infused "Talkin' About," Harrison and the supple-voiced Amerie smooth it out with such sensual, jazz-kissed mid-tempo numbers as "Rolling Down My Face," which deftly samples Roy Ayers's 1976 classic "Searching." Meanwhile, Lil Jon kicks in the nasty-girl title tune, a sinuous, Prince-influenced crunk jam. Imagine Ciara joining Vanity 6.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "1 Thing"

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