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The music of 2020: a review of “Alicia” by Alicia Keys


With all the chaos and uncertainty that has come with 2020, one thing continues to pull through: new music. Whether it’s a single or an entire album, artists continue to deliver for their listeners. On Sept. 18, award-winning singer/songwriter Alicia Keys released her new album, “Alicia.” 

Keys is a native of New York City and is not new to the music scene. You may be familiar with some of her hit songs: “Fallin” (2001), “Empire State of Mind” (2009), and “Girl on Fire” (2012). Keys is an incredibly talented musician and pianist, and her work speaks for itself. She has two live albums, “Unplugged” and “Vh1 Storytellers,” and seven studio albums. 

“Alicia” is Keys’ newest project in 4 years. The album includes 15 songs and several features from artists like Diamond Platnumz, Sampha, Tierra Whack, Miguel, Khalid, Snoh Aalegra, and Jill Scott. Now, this list of features may seem like odd pairings, but as you make your way through the album, each artist adds their own flare to the tracks in a way that really seals the deal. This album promotes the most features that Keys’ has ever had on an album. Each artist adds a different sound to the project. For example, Tierra Whack adds a hip hop flare while artists like Snoh Aalegra and Miguel add a complimentary, old school R&B sound. 

“Wasted Energy” ft. Diamond Platnumz has a slow reggaeton beat, which is something that we have never really seen in Keys’ earlier projects. In contrast, “You Save Me” ft. Snoh Aalegra has a slow R&B sound accompanied by piano that takes the listeners back to Keys’ earlier sounds.

The album also includes the song “Jill Scott” ft. Jill Scott. This song has a smooth R&B sound accompanied by a keyboard. Keys sings the chorus and Scott has a spoken word piece about the intense energy that comes with loving someone. In an interview with Genius, Keys talks about how the song was inspired by Scott, fellow R&B singer, after watching the Instagram live “Versus ” battle between her and Eryka Badu, another R&B/neo-soul singer. These “battles” have been taking place on Instagram over the last few months, where artists can challenge each other to showcase their top hit songs in a live stream. Some examples of these “battles” include Ludacris vs. Nelly, T-Pain vs. Lil Jon, Alicia Keys vs. John Legend, and Jill Scott vs. Erykah Badu. 

In the Genius interview, Keys says, 

“And after the thing was over, he’s like, ‘Babe, Jill is on the phone.’ And I get on the phone with her, and I’m like, ‘You’re just… This is crazy. You’re so…’ And she’s like, ‘Hi, how are you? This was so great.’ And we have a moment. And I’m like, ‘Why haven’t we worked together? Why haven’t we? This is crazy!’ And so she’s like, ‘I know, and I hope to come, and let’s connect.’ And I said, ‘Yes, let’s connect.’ Boom, left it alone.”

The features are unexpected, but Scott’s collaboration was natural for Keys. Keys then goes on to explain how she wrote the song pretending to be Scott, and how the two worked together on the lyrics. 

Each song on the album tells a different story. For example, “So Done” ft. Khalid is a song about living the life that you want while “Perfect Way to Die” discusses unexpected death and the dangerous reality of gun violence.  

All in all, “Alicia” is an album that is sure to take you on a journey of self love, pain, moving on, and more. The album is made up of 15 tracks with eight solo tracks from Keys. A solo track that is especially sentimental on the album is “Perfect Way To Die.” The song tells the story of someone who is a victim of gun violence. The song includes the lyrics: 

“Baby, don't you close your eyes/

‘Cause this could be our final time/

And you know I’m horrible at saying goodbye/

I’ll think of all you coulda done/

At least you’ll stay forever young/

I guess you picked the perfect way to die”

That song has a much more sentimental sound than earlier songs on the album like “Wasted Energy” ft. Diamond Platnumz, which has more of an easy-going, summertime vibe. 

“Alicia” is a bit different than Keys’ earlier projects because each song has a uniquely different sound than the one before and has more features in its entirety than any of Keys’ earlier albums. Once again, Keys doesn’t miss a beat. 

Keys’ music is available on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and more.

Featured Image courtesy of Pix By Ash via Flickr Creative Commons

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  • AnonymousNov 13, 2020 at 7:25 pm


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The music of 2020: a review of “Alicia” by Alicia Keys