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Alicia Keys
Albums

  • Songs In A Minor
  • The Diary Of Alicia Keys
  • As I Am
  • Element Of Freedom
  • Girl On Fire








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Alicia Keys

    Related Artists - Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Aretha Franklin
    Related Genres - Hip Hop & Soul

    Songs In A Minor 7 ( 2001, UK pos 6 )
    Piano And I / Girlfriend / How Come You Don't Call Me / Fallin' / Troubles / Rock Wit U / A Woman's Worth / Jane Doe / Goodbye / The Life / Mr Man / Never Felt This Way / Butterflyz / Why Do I Feel So Sad / Caged Bird

    A few things that these types of album do. You've got yourself a producer or seven, lots of top session guys, a few guest stars. State of the art contemporary r'n'b production and writers, etc, etc. The actual artist themselves almost seem immaterial. Hence a lot of modern r'n'b sounding the same. It's rare that the artist actually IS an artist. Alicia can co-produce, she can write entirely her own material. The best song here was written by Alicia alone and that's warming and promising for her future development. She's a classically trained pianist, by the way - in case you didn't already know. So, the album opens with a piece of her playing classical piano over which soulful backing vocals appear as she speaks over the music. "Flip it" she says, then the hip-hop beats come in. Classical piano, soul vocals and hip-hop. This is very much just a prelude to the album proper but it's pretty damn beautiful and striking. A great way to open your debut album. After which we get 'Girlfriend', merely competent modern r'n'b - that's all. Pretty good, but nothing that we haven't heard done before and done better. Catchy song, though. The most striking and brilliant moment on the album is reserved for that one very special Alicia penned tune, 'Fallin'. You may have heard it, it was a huge hit absolutely everywhere. It works, plain and simple. She isn't the greatest soul singer ever, not at all, but she's not bad. She's got the technique if not quite the voice. So, she sings over herself, layered vocals. Her piano provides the bedrock of the track and the vocals do indeed 'fall'. It's a song that perhaps shouldn't work and if it was, I don't know, some lesser artist, wouldn't have worked. She brings such conviction to the piece however, that yeah, this is great modern soul, no question.

    This album is too long, too many pieces of filler, although highlights do remain. 'Troubles' has a great vocal introduction, pure soul - the entire song is pure soul. 'Goodbye' is almost generic, but remains goodly enjoyable. Alicia is a beautiful girl, but doesn't flaunt her sexuality - she obviously wants to be taken seriously. Ultimately, there are too many moments of filler here for this to rank as a great album, but it's a decent start. Oh, another highlight. Producers of modern soul artists, take note! 'Never Felt This Way' is lovely, just Alicia and piano, that's all. Ultimately, that's all she needs.

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    Readers Comments

    jane doe lilmama05@aol.com
    As I read the list of songs at the top of your page for "Songs in A Minor," I realized that I know all of the songs and I can sing the tune just by glancing at them. Now you can probably note that I am the biggest fan of Alicia Keys and I'm her biggest fan in the world. But I also realized that at the end of the list of songs for her first album, you are missing the last song, "Loving You is Easy." I also know that it is not easy to do a html page because I also do html pages. So all that I am really saying is you forgot a song and I really appreciate how you analyzed some of the songs from "Songs in A Minor."

    Ronald ronald_condor82@hotmail.com
    Hi there! I must admit that you make good reviews. Well, I'm not that kind of music reviewer, What I just do is to catch the good tunes and say if they are god, or awesome. this is the case of Alicia Keys. When I started to listen "Falling" on the radio, I stayed simply stunned to have in my ears such mixture of good lyrics and excellent arrangements. in short words the song really made me "fall". I don't have any of their Albums, but when i put "falling" in my mind, I feel that my spirit gets into an atmosphere of tenderness and the music is just so romantic. That the real sense of music: to make you feel the best things. I have definitely treasured that song in my mind . I don't care which is the general "technical" and "instrumental" opinion from experts. I love it and it will be one of my favorite songs ever. Keep doing your reviews, but try to be a little more hearted. ´cause songs come from the heart, no matter which genre they are, even if they are from hea! vy metal or funk music


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    The Diary Of Alicia Keys 8 ( 2003, UK pos 13 )
    Harlem's Nocturne / Karma / Heartburn / If I Was Your Woman - Walk On By / You Don't Know My Name / If I Aint Got You / Diary / Dragon Days / Wake Up / So Simple / When You Really Love Someone / Feeling U, Feeling Me / Slow Down / Samsonite Man / Somebody Not Really / Streets Of New York

    Ah, ok. OK! She's moved on. She's progressed, which is obviously a great thing to see an artist doing. On the face of it, this album is structured exactly the same as her debut, with the inherent flaws intact. Hence, it's too long. Too many songs are generic thanks to the team of producers and co-writers, although I shouldn't be too harsh. Those guys help Alicia to create one of the finest moments soul music has produced in the past twenty years. No, i'm not overstating anything - the past twenty years, Erykah Badu apart, haven't produced a great deal, actually. At least, not a great deal worth speaking of. Well, once we reach 'You Don't Know My Name', all six minutes of it ( it contains a two minute spoken word section and was a hit single, too! ), an open-minded listener really should have little choice but to bow down and surrender. This is gorgeous, utterly beautiful and stunning. Pure fantasy, deliriously joyful fantasy and true soul music of the highest order. Her voice sounds improved, on this song especially. The backing harmonies are lovely, the structure of the song, even incorporating the spoken word section, natural. Ah, the spoken word section, pure teenage fantasy and romance. It's not cheesy for one section, it really does work. The harmonies, her piano. Her damn sexy voice, she sounds very sexy speaking with that accent of hers. Ah. AH!!!

    'You Don't Know My Name' is so good, the rest of the album almost doesn't matter. This one shining jewel is almost enough on its own, but there are other more than fine songs. 'Dragon Days' is very funky, 'Karma' and 'Heartburn' striking and very funky indeed. 'If I Was Your Woman' incorporates sections of the bacharach/david tune, 'Walk On By'. Yeah, THAT 'Walk On By'. It's been incorporated so seamlessly into another old soul tune. This is doing things a little differently. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just show a little creative imagination. Alicia Keys does just that, besides getting better and better as a performer.

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    Readers Comments

    jane doe lilmama05@aol.com
    I really enjoyed reading the page. You've done better than most of the pages I've ran into so far. I love Alicia Keys, from her beauty and definitely down to her music. I also love you because you have given me an insight on how to do my first and second album. As you probably noted now, I want to be successful in music just like her. Thank You.

    Jessica liljessi1428@Yahoo.com
    You all have no idea what to say. Most of you just want ot hate on Alicia Keys because she has a wonderful talent from God and ya'll don't have it. There is nothing wrong with any of her C.D.'s. they are all so very emotional and every single word she says comes right out of her heart and soul. She is a very intelligent person and understands alot of things that some people don't. She is always willing to give a helping hand to others who need it. Alicia Keys is the most brightest singer in the whole entire world! If every one in this world were as nice, kind, smart, caring, sharing, as Alicia Keys then this world would be the best. No one would starve any more or anything! So in conclusion, ya'll just need to stop hatin, and start congratulatin. She is the best, and none of you will ever pull her down with your words. But you can make a difference and be very inspirational!

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    As I Am ( 2007, UK pos 14 )
    As I Am / Go Ahead / Superwoman / No One / Like You'll Never See Me Again / Lesson Learned / Wreckless Love / The Thing About Love / Teenage Love Affair / I Need You / Where Do We Go from Here / Prelude to a Kiss / Tell You Something (Nana's Reprise) / Sure Looks Good to Me

    Do you remember Four Non Blondes? Hopefully for your sake, you don't. How on earth did Linda Perry become a songwriter for hire? Yes, Linda Perry co-writes three of the songs here whereas I personally wouldn't have let her anywhere near an Alicia Keys album. As for Alicia, she enjoys a growing reputation. Sadly, you know you've 'made it' when American Idol/X-Factor contestants start singing your songs. For this third LP, Alicia uses fuller band arrangements than before yet still firmly falls into the R&B/New-Soul arena. Her lyrics come across like an afterthought, yet the simplicity in these lyrics do lend towards a timeless quality. Her trademark piano sound is far more in the background here, yet she still manages to do all sorts things, including arranging, playing Harpsichord, Moog, Fender Rhodes, Synthesizer Bass, Wurlitzer and string programming. Not too bad. So, which songs does the odious Linda Peters contribute to? Well, the first of them up is 'Superwoman'. Soft, tinkling ivories open the tune, Alica is in very fine voice when the vocals come in. This is a genuinely soulful tune, it's hard to see what Linda might have contributed, apart from perhaps the lyrics? 'The Thing About Love' is a Keys/Perry co-write. It's initially a slow ballad that eventually rises to rockier climes with Alicia belting out the vocal. It appears to be a song designed for a live setting, in which it would no doubt work well. On record, the drama appears slightly forced. It's a very similiar kind of tune actually to the album closer, the other Perry co-write. Same kind of structure and same end of song tornado, this time with a full band including distressing, clattering drums.

    In terms of highlights, 'Where Do We Go From Here' is a well constructed modern sounding track that bridges the gap between Alicia's usual nostalgic soul and modern r&b. A wurlitzer is a strange addition to the song, yet it works. Mentioning 'Tracks Of My Tears' in the lyrics is a bit of a tease though. We're not quite at that level. 'No One' was the lead single, not an obvious choice of single as it takes a few listens to get into your soul. When it does though, you wonder how you lived without it. Again, taking simple lyrical concepts, Alicia weaves a spell with her beautiful voice, piano parts and a thumping beat. Another pick of the pops and potential single has to be the funky 'Wreckless Love', another fine vocal, a modern slice of actually creative and excellent modern R&B. Well done, Alica. For my money though, I slightly prefer 'The Diary Of Alicia Keys', although to be honest, there's not a lot in it. She should be one for the long haul.

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    Element Of Freedom 6 ( 2009, UK pos 1 )
    Element Of Freedom / Love Is Blind / Doesn't Mean Anything / Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart / Wait 'Til They See My Smile / That's How Strong My Love Is / Unthinkable (I'm Ready) / Love Is My Disease / Like The Sea / Put It In A Love Song (with Beyoncé) / This Bed / Distance And Time / How It Feels To Fly / Empire State Of Mind

    Two top ten hits in the UK, 'Empire State Of Mind (Part2)' and 'Doesn't Mean Anything' coupled with a number one placing for the album ensures Alicia's popularity continues unabated. The album reaches an early peak with the slow-building, anthemic 'Doesn't Mean Anything', as much of a stadium epic has anything U2 have ever done yet without becoming too bombastic. The heart of 'Doesn't Mean Anything' are those simple piano lines Alicia paints over and over, like a caressing palm on the cheek. 'Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart' may go to the same loud drum beat school as The Bee Gees 'You Win Again' and Alicia's vocals may sound more, well, processed than her earlier material, yet there's still no arguing over the way she just knows how to knock out an emotionally affecting performance. She's never been the same kind of histrionic diva as a Mariah or a Whitney, throughout her career to date she's always just exuded a sense of calmness and class.

    A slight annoyance which may explain the sense of process and fakery I alluded to earlier however is the sheer amount of back-room staff she apparently needed to make this album. We've numerous engineers and producers and half a dozen co-writers - although it must be stated, this is no Leona Lewis album. Keys herself is central to the writing of the material, she's the only everpresent in terms of the personnel. I return myself though to the nagging sense of over-egging the pudding, overproduction ruins the likes of 'Wait Til They See My Smile'. With a much lighter touch and fewer layers of instrumentation, that could have been a lovely song. The lack of consistency in terms of producers/engineers won't help, for example 'That's How Strong My Love Is' still fails to exude any natural acoustics, yet without so much instrumentation, 'That's How Strong My Love Is' has time to breathe. It's quite a lovely song, actually and the only one credited soley to Alicia. She has her own studio now, she could go a little more natural next time she records an album, but that's an aside, really.

    It seems almost every song here is lyrically a little generic, too much emphasis on love and relationships. A little love and relation is all great of course, but a few different types of lyrics, some outside story-telling perhaps, would have benefited the album. Beyonce really makes her presence felt during 'Put It In A Love Song' and suddenly you wish Alicia would just let loose a little! Too many ballads spoil the broth. Well, something like that. The album ends with Alica's take on her hit with Jay Z, 'Empire State Of Mind'. Stripped back until the three minute mark, it's one of the few genuinely spine-tingling moments I get when listening to 'Element Of Freedom'. Perhaps I dreamt it, but I seem to remember getting those moments more often when listening to previous Alicia Keys material.

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    Girl On Fire 5 ( 2012, UK pos 1 )
    De Novo Adagio (Intro) / Brand New Me / When It's All Over / Listen to Your Heart / New Day / Girl on Fire / Fire We Make / Tears Always Win / Not Even the King / That's When I Knew / Limitedless / One Thing / 101

    She started out as a fantastic musician, somebody that could really play the Piano. Classical influences abounded and decent vocals, too - no Mariah Carey, thankfully. Somewhere along the line, she seems to have either lost herself, or wandered into that dimly lit green room full of people who are celebrities for the sake of being so - tinkering around the edges of modern production techniques will never convince. 'Brand New Me' is a song in search of a chorus, lots of softly sung soul but no climax. It's like CSI New York, cancelled for no clear reason yet you watch it anyway, and wonder why it reaches no conclusion. 'When It's All Over' has what I would call fake modern production, because the sounds are there, but there is no air in the room, no echo - nobody opened the window. 'New Day'? Get the entire production crew out of the window - when you have a genuinely good singer and player, why surround her with loud beats and bad mixing effects - to the point where you may as well have anybody singing? 'Whooooa!' goes somebody in the background, for no clear reason. That somebody in the background, and Alicia, should know better. Heavy beats arrive for lead single 'Girl On Fire', which arrives some six tracks in, the previous five tracks being almost entirely forgettable. Material such as 'Not Even The King', full of lyrical clichés is difficult to actively criticise, yet just passes a set of ears by, all pleasant wallpaper and nice colors, and that is all. I want some risks, I want some mistakes, I want her without the engineers and producers - she can actually do it on her own. A couple of duets sit in the middle of the album and both now sit on my coffee table. I think she should start smoking.

    I enjoy 'Listen To Your Heart', soft beats and quiet, soulful singing are highlights of this mid-tempo number. Lead single 'Girl On Fire' features a heavy, sample drum track and broodingly big vocals for the chorus parts, and a rap during the break some three minutes in. It's a clever modern production, relying on those sample drum parts and her prominent vocal prowess. 'Girl On Fire' has sold two million copies as a download in the USA alone, proving that even in the 21st century, people have an appetite for good music. 'Not Even The King' is a classic Sunday morning ballad, just Alicia and Piano and softly sung emotions - it's good, although ever so slightly dull and pointless - much like the album as a whole.

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    this page last updated 09/06/13


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