October 2, 2020 Alicia Keys – Alicia (Album Review)
First emerging onto the music scene nearly 20 years ago with her debut single “Fallin,” Alicia Keys has been one of R&B’s hottest stars since. Receiving countless awards, plus selling over 40 million albums and 35 million singles worldwide, she was also named the top R&B artist of the 2000s decade by Billboard. More than merely a popstar, she has solidified herself through the years thanks to her impeccable songwriting skills, ability to meld classic R&B and Soul with modern flair, and project a realness in her music that is a cut above. In fact, some might say Keys’ music has always been a sound of the everyday people; projecting a sincerity about love, hope, and a fighting spirit in the face of adversity. Continuing to tap into such humanity, the songstress is back again with her seventh studio album, Alicia.
Set for release earlier in 2020, due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, it was pushed back to Friday, September 18th. Her third consecutive effort on RCA Records, Alicia comes with a ton of anticipation, because due to the unforeseen pandemic delays, 7 singles saw airplay prior to the actual album release! To put matters into perspective, that is nearly half the album, which is 15 tracks in total. Naturally building a buzz, it also comes as no surprise that the album debuts at No. 1 on Top R&B Albums Chart. So, with listeners sitting with most of the songs that make up Alicia as far back as earlier this year, with “Show Me Love” debuting in September of 2019, was it all worth the wait?
Quickly answering that burning question, yes, it was worth the wait, because Alicia is an emotional ride you will want to take again and again. For one, the music is fresh, very well-composed, and strongly produced. These factors in mind, what really drives the album is Keys’ fearless approach to touching on social issues in a very human manner. By nature a philanthropist and activist, she does not drive any particular message down your throat, but instead appeals to your heart and soul with lyrics that are sincere as well as emotional.
These anthemic vibes about standing tall as a human being are felt within songs such as “Authors of Forever,” “Underdog,” and the powerful closer, “Good Job.” Then there is even more heartbreak felt on “Perfect Way to Die,” a song dressed with simple piano and Keys’ voice. Told from the perspective of a mother who is faced with saying goodbye to their child who was senselessly shot, it is a very raw piece that digs deeply into the problems society is being forced to acknowledge today. As mentioned, Keys has always done a fine job of bringing a sense of realism to her music, and each of these songs accomplish this feat in an exceptional way.
With heavy topics the center of focus throughout much of the album, there are also tracks that talk about relationships, love, and heartache. You can find this on the catchy “Wasted Energy,” featuring Diamond Platnumz, “3 Hour Drive” with complimentary vocals from Sampha, along with the self-realizing of “Me x 7” with Tierra Whack and “So Done” featuring Khalid. Then “Show Me Love,” featuring Miguel, and “Love Looks Better” have a classic R&B vibe. This is while “You Save Me,” featuring Snoh Aalegra, is the perfect ballad to play to someone who has been there for you through through thick and thin.
All in all, Alicia is a fantastic album that has a social message blended in with one about love, hope, and believing in yourself. Just months away from turning 40, Alicia Keys has had many fine moments in her career to this point, however, this album proves that she has only just scratched the surface of what she is capable of. The work of an exceptional songwriter, Cryptic Rock gives Alicia 5 out of 5 stars.