Pop | Soul | R&B
Let’s be honest, what is there to say about the New York born singer, songwriter, and pianist Alicia Keys, that hasn’t been said already? Having grown up with a consistent load of iconic tunes being made courtesy of this talented artist, at various different checkpoints in my life, it isn’t hard to see why Alicia has cemented herself as an absolutely iconic artist for people that are around my age group.
But while having so many classics under her belt, I have still not had the chance to properly listen to an album of hers critically, until now.
ALICIA is the seventh studio album from Alicia Keys, and right off the bat, it seemed from the title that this was most likely going to be a very self-reflective piece from Alicia. And while this title wouldn’t be the first instance of an album title drawing the attention to herself as the focal point, with earlier works such as 2007’s As I Am, and her sophomore album The Diary of Alicia Keys, none of her album titles are as to the point and pure (in regards to being a project that opens the artist up to us like a book), than her newest.
In terms of the music within this new project, I had only heard the hit single “Time Machine”, and while I had only really relied on the radio to keep listening to the track, I still thought it was another solid tune from the artist.
Other than that minor detail, I was going into this album entirely afresh. I was uncertain of where to place my expectations at first, as truthfully, I decided I should give this album a critical chance, due to it being the only one I had discovered at the time to pique my interest. However, I still held my belief that Alicia Keys will deliver another collection of gorgeous piano melodies, and equally gorgeous vocals.
And while, in a sense, these two expectations were pretty much fulfilled with this album, I was impressed by the likes of ALICIA, in a way that I hadn’t really anticipated. The uniqueness, versatility, and accessibility that the first batch of tracks shot into my eardrums was refreshingly enjoyable to say the very least. And while we do still get a generous enough helping of the classic and stripped back style that most would expect from Alicia Keys, this album has enough diversity to really make it feel like it is ahead of the curve, in regards to her discography. There were moments in ALICIA that felt more reminiscent of James Blake, and other moments that reminded me of Teyana Taylor, and the similarities don’t stop there.
But as well as being melodically gripping, the same can also be said for this albums conceptual qualities. As it did end up, as I predicted, quite a personal album, this also mirrors the many goings on in 2020, and Alicia’s own thoughts towards them. In other words, some of the tracks on ALICIA feel like very convincing tellings of Alicia’s perceptions of economic struggle, and racial inequality especially. This is definitely executed best, in the heartbreaking penultimate track that is “Perfect Way To Die”, a track that actually drove me to tears after the first listen. Furthermore, it contrasts with some of the warmer and more upbeat tracks on this thing, which is only the tip of this versatile iceberg when it comes down to the wide variety of moods that this album carries.
If I had to nitpick something, however, I would say that the only minor dent, in this otherwise flawless album, would be the mid-section (more specifically tracks 7 through 9), which did take me out of the moment ever so slightly. While none of these three tracks were flat-out unenjoyable, they felt quite standard and uninteresting.
But with this album carrying a total of 15 tracks, and a runtime of almost a full hour, that minor disadvantage matters little. There is so much to get out of this album, so listen to it now if you haven’t already.
ALICIA is a brilliant album, that carries so many varieties of musical beauty, with Alicia’s eternally angelic vocals tieing the whole thing together in one sweet package.
Favourite Tracks: Truth Without Love | Time Machine | So Done | Perfect Way To Die
Least Favourite Track: Me x 7
RCA Records | Sony Music Entertainment