On a recent episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, R&B singer Amerie explained how she and “Crazy in Love” producer Rich Harrison made “1 Thing,” which landed at number 90 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the Best Songs of the 21st Century (So Far). The 2005 song paved the way for the decade of pop that followed, combining a wildly syncopated drum loop from the Meters with hyper-rhythmic vocals that owed way more to hip-hop than traditional R&B. To hear the episode, press play below or download and subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.
Doritos in the vocal booth “There were a lot of guacamole Doritos involved,” says Amerie. “I was literally eating them between takes, because I’m kind of a glutton. Also, it was kind of like my treat, because Rich was really tough in the studio… We would do take after take. He didn’t mean it in a rude way, but he’d go, ‘No. Again!’ People still ask me what I’m saying in [the beginning]. A lot of people are like, she’s saying ‘gobble gobble gobble gobble!’ Why would I say that?”
Tapes N’ Tapes “Rich had it on a demo tape, actually on a tape,” says Amerie. “The way Rich works, he has to go into his hole, he creates and then he comes back and you can start tweaking things. He’s not a make-it-in-front-of-me-right-now, let’s-bounce-back-and-forth-as-we-go creator. Rich had most of the song already finished. The bridge was kind of empty, if I remember correctly, so I went off and wrote the bridge on my own at another time. And at first I was like, ‘Whoa, this song is crazy.’ The way he samples the Meters, what he chose and the way he looped it, gave it this super go-go flavor, which was in him because he’s from [Washington] D.C. I thought, ‘There’s a lot happening in this track.’ It sounded so different from what was on the radio. I liked it right away.And when we recorded it we looked at each other like hm, this is something. But you never really know how everyone else is going to like it. You just know how you feel about it.”‘
Beating the demo “Rich sings on the demos,” Amerie explains. “And I always liked that. Later on, he was like, ‘Should I get a girl to sing on the demos?’ And I was like, no! Because it’s very raw when he sings it. He’s not a singer, so it’s kind of like more of the idea of what it should sound like. And that gave me room to do my own interpretation of things. As opposed to have someone polished singing it, because then it’s cemented already.”
The label didn’t get it. “ I remember one of the descriptions was, it’s so linear. And it kind of does kind of stay on one track, it doesn’t really have a bunch of changes. But it’s not really supposed to be your traditional song where it’s taking you here and then you go up there. It was more of a vibe. I was like, don’t you just hear that it sounds cool? And there were different iterations that came. The label sends you different versions of your song, with terrible hooks on them. After we got over our anger, we said please don’t send any more of these. We like it the way it is.”