After "1 Thing" hit the Top Ten of the Hot 100 during the spring of 2005, Amerie was basically invisible. A follow-up single only grazed the Hip-Hop/R&B chart. Released in 2007, the adventurous Because I Love It, the singer's next album -- and, ironically, best work -- wasn't even issued in the U.S., possibly because its lead single slid off the chart within two weeks. Now on Def Jam, Amerie returns with In Love & War, an album that is much more creative than its title indicates while also playing out a bit like Because I Love It redux. Even with a few recycled ideas and the unlikeliness that she'll have another "1 Thing," the singer has made a second excellent album without the help of Rich Harrison. She works with another assortment of co-producers and co-writers, including Eric Hudson, Sean Garrett, Warryn Campbell, Rico Love, Jim Jonson, Bryan-Michael Cox, and even Teddy Riley. As on Because I Love It, all the high-energy material is packed into the first half, where Amerie lays down the law, accosts, and flirts, and she even manages to seem in control when she falls into a romantic trap. "Why R U" is a reminder that no one is better when it comes to breathing new life into a familiar breakbeat, while "Higher" is surprisingly rocking, reined in just before spinning out of control. The first half is even better when it cools down a few degrees, as on the rewrite of Mint Condition's "Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)," featuring Trey Songz, and "More Than Love," where Amerie rides more Kool & the Gang horns and gets into an amusing spat with Fabolous. "Swag Back" through "Dear John" is all subdued and deals mostly with the war side -- accepting a lost cause, escaping "a living hell," and recovering from it -- though "You're a Star" and "Red Eye" provide a reprieve, with the latter the album's only true slow jam. Its alluringly bleary synthesizer cleverly enhances Amerie's half-awake mile-high-club state of bliss. Heartbreak ballads like "The Flowers" and the "Paint Me Over"-like "Different People" might put off those who have an aversion to melodrama, but they are as well constructed as anything earlier in the set.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman