Amel Larrieux has spent most of her recording career being an underrated artist. In the mid '90s she debuted as part of the Hip-Hop/R&B duo Groove Theory whose sound was simple, melodious, edgy and incorporated a positive message. The project was envisioned to set its members up for stardom - with Bryce Wilson as a producer and Larrieux as the lead vocalist. While neither ever achieved superstardom, it was Larrieux's gifted, soulful vocals that brought the group two radio hits: Tell Me and Keep Trying.
After a stint with the short-lived Groove Theory, Larrieux struck out as a solo artist, releasing Infinite Possibilities in 2000. It was with this album that she began to really showcase her vocal range and neo-soul stylistic fusions of Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop and Folk. Despite its obvious strengths – excellent musical arrangement and composition, positive and introspective songwriting full both self-love and angst – Infinite Possibilities only achieved one hit Get Up; that is if you consider #31 on the R&B charts a hit. Commercial success notwithstanding, it was on Infinite Possibilities Larrieux first gave hints of the direction her musical career might take. Among several gems were, Down, pulsating with dancing piano melodies and Sweet Misery, evocative of a modern Billie Holiday.
Unfortunately, those infinite possibilities came into question when Larrieux was unceremoniously dropped from her label, Epic. In truth, she was no worse for it since Epic displayed no interest in developing and promoting her brand or artistry. Unthwarted, and possibly motivated by the love of family and diehard fans, Larrieux created the Bliss Life label, and began cranking out what she affectionately calls "Amel's music."
With Bravebird, Larrieux showed off her vocal training and talent in ways both intricate and effortless. Larrieux, arguably, has one of the widest vocal ranges in music today. From the soulful resolute crooning of All I Got, to clear operatic channeling of Minnie Riperton-esque octives; if there was any lingering doubt about her range Bravebird certainly cleared up all confusion.
Though Larrieux's love for jazz continued to bleed into most of her music – whether evidenced by her scatting the song's end or a throbbing jazz bass line – and often apparent during live performances, she did not fully give in to this predilection until her most recent release Lovely Standards. This compilation of classic jazz standards is quite lovely indeed; from the playful lyrical imagery of If I Were a Bell to the reminiscent melancholy of Shadow of Your Smile to the breathy hunger of Wild Is The Wind.
While the mainstream music industry may have failed to appreciate Amel Larrieux's vocal talents, most of her fans will agree that from the moment they heard her voice, it was love at first listen. From her humble beginnings with Groove Theory to her willingness to take artistic and professional risks, Larrieux serves as a reminder that talent and quality do not need to be compromised for the sake of success. With four solo albums under her belt, and a number of soundtrack singles and collaborative projects with the likes of Mos Def, TuPac, and Sweetback, Larrieux may be under the commercial radar but she's appreciated within the music community.