Amel Larrieux is the newest female R&B sensation... and ['Infinite Possibilities'] is one of the top five R&B albums that will be released this year. " ~ BRE, February 18, 2000
"With talent like Larrieux's, anything is possible." ~ Vibe, March, 2000
Flying high with a recent Grammy nomination for her work as a featured artist on Stanley Clarke's "Where is The Love," neo-soul songbird Amel Larrieux stretches her own wings as a musical Bravebird in her sophomore solo effort, rising courageously into atmosphere untouched by her contemporaries. Building on critical acclaim earned from her debut, Infinite Possibilities, Amel fuses a range of genres - R&B, soul, hip-hop, jazz and folk, among them - to defy an easy pigeonhole. The songs that populate Bravebird are a breed unto themselves, a hybrid of genres flowing effortlessly through each other in a post-modern reverie. Which is not to say that the careful listener won't identify some unifying themes: a tribute to those who have endured suffering, a plea for immersion, a call to humanity.
In her second outing the beautiful and talented chanteuse continues to captivate, soaring always with confidence and courage, especially in her explorations of love. The ballad "For Real" pulses with the beat of early Prince, offering a classic, unabashed ode to the human heart. On the ethereal "New," acoustic guitars guide a pop-flavored groove, while "Dear To Me" echoes the folk minimalism of Joni Mitchell and Phoebe Snow, backed by the multi-instrumental talents of Amel's collaborator, husband Laru Larrieux. On the self-love ballad "All I Got," a Zen-like message of "Accept who you are, make the best of the moment" helps craft a modern proletariat anthem.
Other songs bring larger issues into perspective. "Givin' Something Up," the musical backdrop of BET's "Wrap It Up" AIDS campaign, focuses on women and their families falling apart, whether from infidelity, abuse or exploitation. A tribute to New Orleans'Congo Square, where slaves once gathered to share music and spark the birth of jazz, fuels the free-flowing sound of "Congo." And on the album's title track, "Bravebird," Amel mourns the horror of female circumcision by spotlighting one victim who fled her native Somalia for the U.S., the songwriter hoping to extrapolate her personal travail to connect with the pain of other women.
Few young singers from the nascent "new school" of conscious soul possess the grace, maturity, strength and determination of Amel Larrieux, whose solo debut Infinite Possibilities (Epic) placed her in a musical niche all her own. Drawing on a wealth of influences from jazz, hip-hop, gospel and funky R&B, with flashes of Middle Eastern, West African and Indian styles, Amel crafted a veritable concept album that explored an endless range of promise and potential... lyrically, musically and personally. Its single "Get Up," an ode to working people inspired by such classic songs as Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money," became a modern anthem and a magnet for a growing legion of Amel's fans.
Reflecting the title she chose, Infinite Possibilities symbolizes a challenge, not only to her but to the self-limiting definition of what is commercially identified as black music and art. "I'm not worried about labels," Amel says when asked about the term "progressive R&B," which has been applied to many of today's artists. "Some folks need them for clarity, but the overall definition of 'black music' should be looked at. If everyone knew how many kinds of music could technically fall under this category, its use would be more justifiable, but most people just don't know."
An urban songbird by birth, the New York native grew up in a West Village "artists building," her parents exposing her early to bohemian characters and experiences that would mold her eclectic sensibilities. By 18, sure that she wanted to express herself musically, she wrote a song and created a demo tape, leading by serendipity to her pairing with Bryce Wilson. As lead siren and co-writer for the duo Groove Theory, Amel enjoyed success with "Tell Me," which broke the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and the top five on the R&B charts before being certified gold in October 1995. Her voice and writing also attracted the attention of former Sade guitarist and programmer Stuart Matthewman, who recruited her to sing on an album for his band Sweetback. She has since collaborated with hip-hop supergroup The Roots on several songs and tours.
As a songwriter she has contributed to film soundtracks, writing and singing "What's Come Over Me?" in a duet with Glen Lewis for MGM's Barbershop. Her other work can be heard in such films as Love Jones, Down To Earth and Sunset Park, as well as a recent commercial spot for Mercedes Benz. She was also recently recognized with a Grammy nomination, in the category of Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals, for "Where is the Love" by Stanley Clarke, on which she joined Glenn Lewis as a featured vocalist.
Equal to Amel's vocal and writing talent is her alluring beauty and eclectic style. She has been spotlighted as a style maven in Essence, Honey, Harper's Bazaar, Trace, The Fader and other magazines and was also featured in the Coach anniversary print campaign. More recently her vocal talent and beauty have been central to Coca-Cola's "Keep It Real" campaign in television, radio and print ads.
A trained dancer, Amel is sharpening her acting skills and is preparing to bring her triple-threat talents to the film and television world. She is happily married to manager, producer and musical collaborator Laru Larrieux and is the proud mother of two girls, Sanji-Rei (5) and Sky (9), whose drum playing on Bravebird proves that the apple does not fall far from the tree.