Until this summer, Philadelphia-bred mistress of ceremonies Amanda Blank could be found both everywhere and nowhere; a fixture found in the liner notes and “featuring” sections on collaboration tracks from just about every hip-hop tested, indie cred-approved artist since the mid-’00’s, including Santigold, M.I.A., Spank Rock, Pase Rock, Ghostface Killah, and N.A.S.A.
As a result, Amanda Blank is an artist inexorably linked to her mix-tape origins: Put together the in-your-face, Cristal and cocaine drunk-pop of Ke$ha, the funk and grind sound of album producer Diplo, the super-slick badassery of Peaches, and perhaps even the cool breathiness of Britney Spears on the chillier grooves, and you’ve still only got half of what Blank’s all about.
Within seconds of hearing the garage-rock-gone-hip-hop intro of “Make It, Take It,” it becomes all too clear that we’re in for a sweat-drenched, sex-stenched affair on Blanks’ long-overdue debut, I Love You. Tracks including the throbbing, pistol pumping “Something Bigger, Something Better” and electro-jittery “Might Like You Better” are at the very least danceable–at their best, nearly irresistible. Even the faithfully minimal cover of “Make-Up” off of the 1982 debut of Prince‘s short-lived sexperiment Vanity 6 inspires moments of vogue.
But this collection isn’t all about the mmphing and, shockingly enough, benefits most from the few breathers in between. The bleary-eyed, post-consummation contemplation of “Shame On Me” is the best track Britney’s never recorded, while the neurotic-friendly “DJ” proves a luscious dancefloor treat riddled with all the best reasons to dance the pain away–anger, bitterness, and sorrow.
It’s midway through however, when Blank gets down to business, unleashing her signature unstoppable lyrical flow on the Spank Rock-assisted track, “Gimme What You Got,” and “Lemme Get Some.”
This, after all, is the meat and potatoes of her craft: Amanda Blank is a talented artist. Not only can she spit out verses faster than most male rappers in the industry, but she commands a devastating mastery of rhythm and flow–plus, she’s a seemingly fearless lyricist. The only problem is that there simply isn’t enough of that grit to go around. A few harder numbers would have done wonders here, especially considering the wide range of tracks we’ve heard from her over the years.
The album’s final moment is also its most unexpected: “Don’t act so surprised,” Blank croons along with Swedish delight and MuuMuse favorite, Lykke Li on “Leaving You Behind” as the gentle guitar strums away into nothingness. I just can’t help it, Amanda–I’m considering this album the surprise of the summer.