Just like Janet Jackson’s independent-woman anthem, “Control,” Amerie Rogers “got her own mind, and she wants to make her own decisions.” When the 25-year-old singer saw that her record company wasn’t getting the buzz out quick enough on her sophomore album, Touch, she started some buzz herself. “This project is literally blood, sweat and tears,” says the exotic beauty, who was born to a Korean mom and African-American father. “It was an uphill battle all the way because my label (Columbia Records) wasn’t feeling my single ‘1 Thing.’ They thought the song needed more melody, but with the go-go element I felt it was perfect the way it was.”

Rather than trust her fate to the very same execs who had failed to support her 2002 debut, All I Have, to her expectations, Amerie got a new management team and took control of Touch by serving as the album’s co–executive producer. She collaborated with a dream team of track masters, including Lil Jon, Bink, Red Spyda, Dre and Vidal, The Buchanans, and Bryce Wilson. In addition to working behind the scenes on production, she wrote or cowrote every track, codirected the video for “1 Thing,” and put her Georgetown University English degree and fine-arts minor studies to use by helping design the CD packaging, from color schemes to fonts.

Then last December the gutsy singer leaked “1 Thing”—produced by longtime friend and collaborator Rich Harrison—to a worldwide bevy of deejays. “It was a gamble,” admits the cosmopolitan sister, who grew up on military bases in Alaska, Germany, Korea, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Texas. “But I felt as if I had nothing to lose. I felt as if I could go nowhere but up.”

She was right. The song became an instant smash, forcing Columbia Records to make Touch a top priority. “At the end of the day, I was like, ‘No biggie—let’s keep it moving,’ ” Amerie says of her struggle to complete Touch. “I was just happy my label got on the ball.”

Now Amerie is earning the perks that come along with a hit album—but don’t expect her to abuse her VIP party privileges. “When I’m headed out to a gig at 11:00 p.m. or midnight, I’m thinking, How do people do this for free and for fun? I’d rather be in the bed, watching TV, or on the computer. I like quiet evenings, Blockbuster nights, making dinner, doing laundry—that’s my idea of a good time. Man, Paris Hilton must be tired.”