We were originally set to hear Alicia Keys’ seventh studio album in March, but due to the pandemic we are now receiving the project almost six months later and it was most definitely worth the wait.
Before the pandemic, her lead single ‘Underdog’ was slowly making its way up the charts and became her highest-charting single since 2012’s ‘Girl On Fire’ so unfortunately the excitement for her project had dwindled somewhat since the inevitable drop off of that single and won’t have boosted its commercial success. However, creatively the delay seems to make sense as the album is filled with positivity, maturity and self-reflection which is needed now more than ever.
‘ALICIA’ takes us through multiple genres throughout its runtime including some smooth funk on ‘Time Machine’ to dewy reggae on ‘Wasted Energy’. Key’s lyrics are like a guide for the listener providing optimism at every turn. “We’re all in this boat forever, and we’re sailing towards the future and it’s alright,” Alicia sings on ‘Authors Of Forever’ which is a silky r&b gem with an 80’s edge to it.
‘ALICIA’ – Time Machine (Official Video)
The album features a consistent mood throughout and unsurprisingly, there is a lack of up-tempo cuts that work perfectly and gives the album a sense of cohesion. The closest we get to breaking that cohesion is with the over the top pop-ballad ‘Love Looks Better’, produced by Adele and frequent Beyoncé collaborator Ryan Tedder.
After Alicia included a more socially conscious aspect of songwriting on her 2016 album ‘Here’. She keeps that up on this album with ‘Underdog’ which contains an unpretentious and affecting shout-out to “young teachers” and “student doctors” as well as “single mothers waiting on a check to come”.
But perhaps the most hard-hitting point on the album is ‘Perfect Way To Die’ a socially appropriate ballad written from the perspective of a grieving mother whose son has been murdered by police. When Keys sings, “just another one gone, and they tell her to move on” it’s a tear-inducing condemnation of Americas’ horrific response to police brutality.
The album ends on a somewhat high note with ‘Good Job’ a piano lead track dedicated to all the ordinary people out there just trying to get through the day. It could have come across as condescending coming from one of the world’s most famous singers but somehow it doesn’t. Like most of the album its incredibly heartfelt and most importantly, completely genuine.
Words by Chris Saunders