|Released January 5, 2005 (2005-01-05)|
Format CD 12" digital download
Recorded June 2004; Night Flight Recording Studios (Fort Washington, Maryland) Sony Music Studios
"1 Thing" is a song written by American R&B singer and songwriter Amerie and Rich Harrison for Amerie's second studio album, Touch (2005). The song is influenced by go-go rhythms and features a prominent sample of The Meters' 1970 funk recording of "Oh, Calcutta!", written by Stanley Walden. Its lyrics focus on an unidentified "thing" that fuels a romantic attraction.
- Theme and sound
- Critical reception
- Commercial performance
- Video, covers, and other uses
The song was released as Touch's lead single in 2005, and is the only single from the soundtrack to the 2005 romantic comedy film Hitch. "1 Thing" received acclaim from critics, and peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and number four in the United Kingdom, becoming Amerie's first top ten single and her biggest hit to date, also peaking at number one on the U.S. R&B singles chart. Its digital download and ringtone releases were each certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The song earned Amerie a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 2006 Grammy Awards. A remix of "1 Thing" features rapper Eve. It was later named the twenty-second and twenty-fifth best song of the 2000s decade by Rolling Stone and Robert Christgau, respectively.
In 2004, when working on her second album, Amerie enlisted the services of producer Rich Harrison, who had helped produce and write her first album. In May 2004, Harrison heard "Oh, Calcutta!" for the first time and began working on the beat accompanying the ten-second back-and-forth breakdown between Meters drummer Ziggy Modeliste and guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Harrison said he loved the work of the Meters, especially Modeliste, commenting, "Ziggy, he's crazy." He processed the way the breakdown could be "flipped", added a bongo drum, a cowbell, and a ride cymbal, and sent it to Amerie. According to Harrison, they wrote and finished the song in two to three hours.
Amerie's manager, Len Nicholson, felt the song was "the single" to release. When executives at Amerie's label, Columbia/Sony Urban Music, heard "1 Thing", they felt that the song's choruses needed to be "bigger". They recommended that more music be added to the percussion-focused beat, but Harrison and Amerie replied that adding more to the beat would overpower the song. Harrison and Amerie returned to the studio several times to rework the track. Each time they submitted a new version to the label, Columbia told them that the song sounded unfinished, but was unable to specify what should be changed. The label continued to refuse to release "1 Thing"; in Amerie's words, "People just weren't getting it".
Later in 2004, six months after recording "1 Thing", Amerie and Harrison leaked it to U.S. radio stations in an attempt to get it released officially. The response from DJs and listeners was positive, and it consequently received airplay across the country. Columbia Records attempted to suppress the song because it was an unofficial release, and because Jennifer Lopez (another artist on the label) had expressed interest in recording the song for her own album, Rebirth. Radio stations refused to retract the song from their playlists, and Columbia eventually began promoting "1 Thing" as a single, making it a last-minute addition to the Hitch soundtrack. Lopez settled on another Harrison-produced, funk-infused track, the Usher outtake "Get Right".
Theme and sound
"1 Thing" was produced by Harrison and is built around a sample of The Meters' 1970 version of the theme song from Oh! Calcutta!, "Oh, Calcutta!", written by Stanley Walden. Built around The Meters' funky beat-driven percussion, "1 Thing" finds Amerie lamenting an aspect of a relationship that keeps her satisfied. Even if other factors are less than positive, there is one thing that keeps her hooked ("It's this one thing that's got me trippin'"). Amerie said that the inspiration for the song came from a conversation she had with Harrison "about relationships and how there's always one thing that keeps you attracted to someone. No matter what they do or how they act, there's that one undeniable thing that keeps you coming back." She told Blender that the "one thing" "could be bringing flowers, or something more ... physical. People think I'm just this good girl, but there are other sides they don't see."
Despite being based on a New Orleans funk sample, the song belies a strong go-go influence. Harrison likened the two based on their heavy use of percussion and chant. Amerie stated, "You don't hear go-go outside of D.C. ... I was like, 'We have to do it in an up-tempo way because when you hear it on the radio in D.C., it's fast.' ... So it's a fresh sound for everybody but people in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area. They [already] know what it is." The song is composed in the key of B major, moving at a tempo of 100 beats per minute in common time. It uses four-measure phrases with a I-III-II-I-VI chord progression. The first four chords are played on the measure's downbeat, and off-beat syncopation is used for the fifth chord.
"1 Thing" received acclaim from music critics. In its review of Touch, Rolling Stone named the song "an early front-runner for song-of-the-summer status," also ranking it the number one single of 2005. Pitchfork Media stated that Harrison "knows something about horns, big glorious ascending heavenly anthemic horns" and "drums, huge sweaty riotous back-and-forth second-line old-school Clyde Stubblefield drums." AllMusic described "1 Thing" as being "just as exciting" as "Oh, Calcutta!" for how it "[flails] all over the place with unbound joy".
The song received second place behind Kanye West's "Gold Digger" on the 2005 Pazz & Jop list, a survey of several hundred music critics conducted by Robert Christgau. Blender ranked "1 Thing" number 191 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". It praised the song's "cascading drums…and Amerie's frantic, top-of-her-range vocals". Calling it "a pretty fucking smart move to wrap perfect pop around a question that stays open all night", Pitchfork listed the song as the second best single of 2005, behind Antony and the Johnsons' "Hope There's Someone". The song was ranked 32nd on Pitchfork's top 500 songs of the 2000s, and the publication included "1 Thing" in its collection of The Pitchfork 500. Christgau named it the twenty-fifth best song of the 2000s.
"1 Thing" became Amerie's most commercially successful song. In the United States, it debuted at the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 on February 12, 2005. The song gradually climbed the chart over a ten-week period, peaking at number eight, and exited the chart after a total of twenty weeks. It received play from urban contemporary stations and topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in late April 2005. "1 Thing" also charted on the Rhythmic Top 40 and Pop 100, reaching numbers thirteen and twenty-eight respectively. The Recording Industry Association of America awarded a platinum certification to its digital download in October 2005, and another platinum certification to its ringtone release in June 2006. The song received a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 48th Grammy Awards but lost to Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together".
The song was successful in the British Isles. In the United Kingdom, "1 Thing" debuted and peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart in late May 2005. It went on to spend fourteen weeks on the chart. The song ended the year as Britain's thirty-eighth best-selling single of 2005. In the neighboring Republic of Ireland, the single debuted at number ten on the Irish Singles Chart. It climbed to number six in two weeks, remaining on the chart for another nine weeks. "1 Thing" was successful in continental Europe, where it peaked at number thirteen on the European Hot 100 Singles chart. It reached the top ten in Denmark, Finland, and Norway; the top twenty in Belgium and the Netherlands; and the top forty in France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Video, covers, and other uses
The music video for "1 Thing", directed by Chris Robinson and Amerie, revealed to the public the singer's sexual side. It focuses on her dance routines, featuring her as a go-go dancer in various setups, intercut with footage from the film Hitch. Amerie co-directed the video with Chris Robinson after she approached him with the video's concept in mind. The two collaborated again when directing the music video for the following single, "Touch".
Lauryn Hill sampled "1 Thing" during the second and last part of "Doo Wop (That Thing)" during live performances. Girls Aloud used the song as an interlude in performances of its 2004 single "Love Machine" during its 2006 Chemistry Tour. Foo Fighters member Dave Grohl showed the video for "1 Thing" during 24 Hours of Foo, during a segment in which each member of the band presented one song that they considered their "guilty pleasure". Alternative rock band Elbow covered the song in a comedic fashion for an August 2005 performance on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge. "1 Thing" was used in the PlayStation 2 karaoke game SingStar R&B. The Sweden-based Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun covered the song in an acoustic style on her 2013 album Rarities. A cover of the song by British duo Peter and Kerry is featured on Late Night Tales: Bonobo. The Irish singer-songwriter Hozier has performed "1 Thing" during concerts in 2014 and 2015.
"1 Thing" was played during the pole dancing scene in Somewhere. The song can also be heard in the soundtracks for video games Saints Row 2, Everybody Dance, The Hip Hop Dance Experience and Grand Theft Auto V.
The song's only official remix features guest vocals from rapper Eve, and an alternate version of the music video was created for it. Amerie that said she chose Eve to appear on the remix because most other female R&B singers were accompanied by male rappers, and that Eve "epitomizes that whole independent fearless female doing her thing. She's fashionable and very much a woman even though she definitely has a lot of attitude, the strength that most would attribute to men. ... With '1 Thing' being such an aggressive track, it was perfect to see two females really doing it."
A second remix features Fabolous, a third features B.G., and little-known Torontonian producer Satya Rock arranged an extended underground remix to feature E-40, Method Man, Lyrics Born, One Be Lo, Dres, Joe Budden, Talib Kweli, Beanie Sigel, Edan, and MF DOOM. Siik remixed "1 Thing" by using instrumentals from a song by Japanese producer Nujabes. Stylus Magazine listed Siik's remix seventh on its list of the top ten remixes of 2005 and commented that "it's enough to warrant a whole change of venue, from the sizzling pep of the dance floor to the silk luxury of the bedroom." Most of the unofficial remixes were released on mixtapes, and Amerie said that she liked them all, particularly those by Fabolous, B.G., and Juelz Santana.