I thought that Alicia Keys could never really be bothered with Britain.
I wondered why she had never had a UK number one, but yet countless US hits. I presumed it was the way that she promoted herself, she's not very concerned about being commercial.
Boy, was I smacked full-on in the face when she performed on X Factor nearly two weeks ago - not only a commercial ploy to promote her new album but an amazing performance that really showed her ability to sing, play the piano and perform, Alicia Keys plays not like an entertainer, but as a professional.
Next week sees the release of her fourth studio album, "The Element of Freedom," (which I keep wanting to call The Element of Surprise - it is NOT this) - a 14-track platform for her to bear her soul.
It is actually a 13-track album because spoken introductions should NOT count as a track. I'm always skeptical about spoken introductions. We bought it to hear someone sing, not talk. Not cool, Alicia.
Diehard fans of Alicia may find the album a disappointment, it doesn't hold stand-out, classic tracks like "Fallin’" or "If I Ain’t Got You," but she is noteably more raw and open in this album than any prior.
For a career that has never had any lows, you wouldn't expect her to stop producing hits anytime soon though.
The album is surprising, it's not your run of the mill RnB make shifters CD, it's an emotional journey which no doubt depicts Keys' personal life and new love aspirations.
Track 10 see's Alicia team up with Beyonce for "Put it in a Love Song," undoubtedly the closest Keys has come to producing a club song.
The last track also features as a sequel to her hit with rapper Jay-Z, "Empire State of Mind," appropriately named, "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down." In which Jay-Z sings a new verse.
Keys has moved on and instead of concentrating on the traditional side of RnB the album has incorporated 80s synths and drums - that seems more power ballad than RnB diva. She even sounds a little Diana Ross on track four, "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart."
It is a 'safe' album that will see Alicia receive chart success, the music is strong and powerful, yet her vocals remain delicate and slightly vulnerable
Some may think that Alicia has lost it, but she is growing and incorporating some of her new found experiences of love into her music, to create an album that discusses loneliness, loss and self-esteem. However, the track "Like a Sea" sees Alicia return to traditional A Keys on the mainly mid-tempo album.
The 12 time Grammy winner doesn't fail to deliver, but it would be hard to with such amazing talents.
The album is empowering and inspiring and an insight into the heart of Alicia Keys like never before. If you haven't heard much of Alicia in the past, this is a great way to start.
Female First - Jennifer Dixon
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