Alicia Keys released her fifth studio album this week, Girl On Fire. The self-proclaiming album comes three years after her last, The Element of Freedom, during which time she accumulated new material to write and sing about: having a baby, getting married to Producer Swizz Beats, and becoming a Broadway producer for starters.
This new material marks her growth, as evidenced by the content of the album, showing a “Brand New Me”–an older (31 years old), wiser, and stronger new Alicia. The neo-soul/neo-jazz album bears a mood of peace, love, and harmony, exemplifying the brilliance of Keys’ piano, vocal, and writing competence alike.
After a stimulating piano intro, the album opens with the ballad “Brand New Me” to mark the mood from the start–a song which Keys refers to as her “autobiography.”
It’s been a while, I’m not who I was before
You look surprised, your words don’t burn me anymore
Been meaning to tell you, but I guess it’s clear to see
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me
Can’t be bad, I found a brand new kind of free
She then goes on to introduce her two-year old son, Egypt (a.k.a. “Showtime” as he charmingly refers to himself when asked for his name), on “When It’s All Over” to drive home how much her life has really changed since we last heard from her.
While most of the track list is characteristic of traditional R&B/soul favorites Sade or Floetry (e.g. “Listen To Your Heart” and “Fire We Make” ft. Maxwell) with a neo-jazz twist, there are a few anomalies: the upbeat motivational title track and first single “Girl On Fire” Inferno Version ft. Nicki Minaj; reggae/dance hall banger “Limitedless”; and a harder hitting hip hop number “New Day.” Influences of Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, and even Janis Joplin can be heard in songs like “Tears Always Win” and “Not Even The King.”
Alicia’s heartfelt vocals, expressive lyrics, and stirring piano chord progressions and arpeggios, however, make the masterwork uniquely hers–the same combination that have earned the musical genius 14 Grammys and countless nominations throughout her evolution. The best example of this is the eerily spine-chilling final track, “101.” The best was saved for last.
How many more awards and how much more acclaim will Girl On Fire merit fr Miss Keys (err…Mrs. Beats)? Share your thoughts in the comments.