I’m not really what you could call a big fan of R’n’B/soul/urban whatever. Sure, I love some of the more mainstream efforts by many, and the occasional diva like Brandy or Mariah, but it’s often an uphill struggle. Against this I’ve watched Alicia’s now decade-long career with some interest.
While I experimented with her first two albums “Songs in A Minor” and “The Diary of Alicia Keys”, aside from some great singles I didn’t really get on board. This trend continued with her fourth studio album “The Element of Freedom”, though it seemed to be a commerical peak for her in the UK (countering her slipping sales in the US).
The album didn’t quite hit its stride with UK lead single “Doesn’t mean anything”, but this track along with radio favourite (even today) “Empire State of Mind Pt II”, things got rolling again. I think this really is one of her better singles, perhaps even challenging for my favourite.
That creeping dark effect at the start, with that solid beat doesn’t feel at odds with the light and delicate vocals on this track. It’s uncharacteristically high-pitched for her, I’m used to her deep tones. Her speaking voice is so gorgeous, as a side note. That rapid-fire delivery of verses (“evenifyouwereamillionmilesaway”) really works for me, and the light electro tones to the song keep it modern but somehow evoke thoughts of some 90s singer-songwriters like Sophie B Hawkins. I know that probably sounds like nonsense, perhaps it’s a melodic hook that’s drawn that comparison in my mind.
I think “U don’t know my name” might just pip this for my favourite Keys track, but this really is special, even with a partly-gorgeous, partly naff “Hancock” ripoff video