Note: A few years ago, Amerie updated her name to Ameriie. For the sake of the subject matter of this piece, I’m using the old spelling of her name.
Because… I LOVE It
When it comes to acquiring music I always love a good story and even more, a challenge. Amerie’s Because I Love It is one of those albums that has both. It holds a special place in my heart not only because of the two aforementioned factors, but also because of how amazing the album is. Because I Love It is Amerie’s magnum opus. But, have you even heard of Because I Love It?
Here’s the thing, most people (in the US especially) don’t know about it. The album never received a ‘proper’ release in the US or Canada, and the ‘release’ it did receive happened almost a year and a half after it’s initial release. Even still, tracking down a copy was no easy task. Sure, there are copies on Amazon, but I wanted more. I finally tracked down the Taiwan edition, which contains a bonus remix, because that’s how I roll.
I can pinpoint the exact moment that I became interested in Because I Love It. In spring 2009 as Amerie prepared her fourth album In Love & War, she caught my attention. I loved the sound of “Why R U” that album’s first single and needed to explore her catalog. When I discovered that Because I Love It was by and large unreleased in the US, it peaked my interest. I started researching reviews and information on the album. A review I found described the album’s closer “All Roads” as “somewhere between Mariah Carey and Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin'”. Ding ding ding! Those are the magic words. An album with a Mariah-esque song is somewhere hard to find? Challenge accepted. I needed that album, and so my search began.
I did not actually get my hands on Because I Love It until nearly 4 years later. When I did, it was a big victory. The Taiwanese version of the album was my goal, because I wanted the “Take Control (Remix)” featuring singer Se7en. All the songs. I want them all, and on a cd, please and thank you. Finally getting that import in my hands was an extremely gratifying moment amongst my musical memories. The work paid off. Even better, the CD-quality version of the album highlighted quite a few things my bootleg missed.
Because I Love It: Background
Originally titled None Of The Above according to an un-linkable, yet frequently sourced Vibe article, Amerie aimed to continue her adventurous and diverse musical direction with album number three. She refused (and still refuses) to be classified into one specific genre. While she’s generally considered an R&B artitst, she incorporates soul, funk, pop, hip hop, and DC go-go into her sound.
Because I Love It is full of rich and diverse sounds, seemingly centering on 80’s inspirations. Even though it’s Amerie’s first album without producer Rich Harrison (Amerie’s entire debut All I Have & “1 Thing”, Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love”, Jennifer Lopez’s “Get Right”) at her side, she flourishes. From the edgy, 80’s “World’s Famous” sampling “Some Like It”, to the spy movie-esque first single “Take Control”, she hits every mark to make this a memorable, career-defining body of work.
Both singles sound like the extravagant, catchy songs we expect from Amerie. Lead single “Take Control” finds Amerie co-writing with Cee-Lo, who also lends background vocals to fill out the song. “Gotta Work” on the other hand, leans heavily on the DC-driven go go sound which propelled “1 Thing” to legendary status. “Gotta Work” is built on a sample of Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma Franklin’s cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'”. The song is fast paced, motivational, and invigorating. It’s like “1 Thing” on steroids.
Standout Album Cuts
Digging in beyond the singles, there’s a unique reworking of Curtis Mayfield’s “Make Me Believe In You“. The track, retitled “Make Me Believe” hits much harder than Mayfield’s original. With the addition of brass, it transforms the song away from his masterful funk and into a moment from the late 60’s/early 70’s soul music that prefaced funk. Also, those flute parts you hear are performed by Amerie. The woman is a talent without limits.
The aforementioned “All Roads” concludes the standard track list beautifully. It more than lives up to the Mariah Carey-Journey comparison. Fluttering keys merge with aggressive drum changes as Amerie vocally shows us what she’s really got (which is A LOT). And of course, there’s a key change to seal the deal as the song climaxes. This is the perfect album closer.
“Crush”, is the album’s midpoint and it’s standout cut. Built on a piano loop masquerading for a bass, the song refuses classification. It’s not quite pop, not quite R&B, but it’s an essential for every breezy summer drive with the windows down. “I need your arms around me. Please let me be your everything. I’ll be your girl for just tonight. Boy don’t you know? You are my crush” she sings on the chorus over crashing synths. It perfectly captures the feelings that run rampant during a crush. The song was planned as a single but it never came to fruition. However, a stellar remix by Johnny Douglas did find it’s way online.
The Release, Or Lack There Of
Because I Love It first released in the U.K. on iTunes on May 11, 2007. A physical release followed days later in the U.K. Shortly thereafter, the album was released throughout the rest of Europe and Japan. It peaked at #4 on the U.K. R&B Albums chart. The album became available in CD form in the United States about 3 months later, in August 2007. It was only available through one big-box retailer, as an online exclusive. A US release allegedly happened in September of 2008, but there’s no evidence to corroborate this claim. Furthermore by that point, Amerie already departed Columbia Records and moved on to Def Jam.
The real question is why?
I don’t want to speculate and get hit with the stingers, but there could have been some trepidation on Columbia’s part on account that Amerie could upstage another R&B singer (*cough* Beyoncè *cough*) also on their roster. This album surely had the power to advance her position of power within the words of pop and R&B. More likely though, the stifled release can be attributed to the performance of “Take Control”. The song did not even crack the Top 50 on Billboard R&B charts, let alone the Hot 100. In comparison, “1 Thing” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. While “Gotta Work” never received an official US release, the song has been used in numerous commercials and trailers. Most people have probably heard it before, whether they realize it or not.
There’s not a lot of information on the reasoning, and Amerie hasn’t been asked about it, so for now, it’s a mystery. What’s more of a mystery is that the album is no longer available in the United States (if it ever was). Also in the United States, it was never released on iTunes, and to this day cannot purchased digitally on any outlet, nor streamed on any platform including Spotify and Tidal. In contrast, Because I Love It readily available in European countries any beyond for both digital purchase and streaming.
With all that said, it’s still surprising that considering the overall critical acclaim for the album, someone didn’t think to give it a real release in the US. NME went as far as to call it “bar-raising pop”, AllMusic described the album as “more colorful and varied than All I Have and Touch“, and The Guardian called her “one of the greatest singers in pop music” and described the album in two words: “Spectacular work.”
If you want to hear Because I Love It start to finish in the US you have 2 choices:
1. Buy it. Used copies readily available on Amazon these days.
2. Download it through back channels. However, let me caution you: Most of the downloads out there are a low quality rip of the album. You’re better off spending the few dollars for the CD and getting the good quality. It makes a difference (really), and it’s worth it!