2001 “A WOMAN’S WORTH” from Songs In A Minor
Five Grammy wins for Alicia’s debut album! Comparisons to Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, and Stevie Wonder after only one CD. Alicia didn’t jump on the hip hop rap bandwagon, she faithfully stuck to her classically trained roots and released an album that crossed multiple genres. Jazzy tones, 70’s funk, neo-soul styling, piano ballads, old school New York hip hop beats, yet kept it all contemporary and urban. She even threw in a Prince cover. It felt vintage and new at the same time. The two singles are legendary, the gospel-tinged advice to the guys, “A Woman’s Worth” and “Falling” with Alicia showing off her vocal capabilities. Alicia said she wrote Falling to describe the roller coaster nature of a relationship when she said, “Sometimes, you’re completely head-over-heels in love with someone, and sometimes you can’t stand that person. You fall in and out”. The remix of the CD including a Top 10 Hip Hop jam with Eve called “Gangsta Lovin” which only added to her mystique.
2003 “IF I WERE YOUR WOMAN / WALK ON BY” from The Diary Of Alicia Keys
No sophomore slump for Alicia. Her 2nd CD debuted at #1, sold eight million copies worldwide, and three more Grammy awards including Best R&B album. “If I Ain’t Got You”, “You Don’t Know My Name” (written with a young Kanye West), and “Karma” all exploded on the pop charts. My two favorite songs are a sexy two minute interlude called “Feeling You, Feeling Me” (previous blog) and her mashup of “If I Were Your Woman/Walk On By”. Paying homage to Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, Alicia updated the beats and increased the urgency of the lyrics.
DAILY MUSIC TRIVIA: I was asked this question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, what 80’s TV show did a six year old Alicia Keys guest star on? Yesterday:
2007 “LIKE YOU’LL NEVER SEE ME AGAIN” from As I Am
Alicia’s third album lived up to lofty expectations becoming the the Number One selling CD of 2008. You couldn’t turn on the radio and not hear her optimistic love song, “No One”. She teamed up with John Mayer for “Lesson Learned” and “Teenage Love Affair” became two more R&B hits. Like some critics, I found Alicia’s third album a little poppy and overall not as strong as her first two releases. But there was still some amazing songs on it like “Tell You Something” (Nana’s Theme) which featured Alicia crooning at the piano. My favorite song, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” was enhanced by an award winning video with Common. The visuals are as amazing as the record’s message.
2009 “DISTANCE AND TIME” from The Element Of Freedom
Perhaps a backlash or an audience looking for Alicia to challenge her potential more, The Element Of Freedom, became her first release to NOT hit #1. Many of the songs were sensitive ballads, the words “moody” and “delicate” describe the feel of the album as a whole. One bright spot was the production by Swiss Beatz, who fell in love with Alicia during the recording session. Their affair ignited a media frenzy, yet, they have since married and welcomed a beautiful boy into the world. Her version of Jay-Z’s tribute to NYC, “Empire State of Mind Part 2” and “Wait Until You See My Smile” are stand out tracks. The pinnacle of the disc, “Distance And Time”, perfectly describes those lonely moments when the one you love is away from you and you’re counting the moments until they return, the tone harkens back to her dynamic debut CD.