Alicia Keys – Here
A collection of soulfully written songs grounded by intense, laid-back beats, Alicia Keys’s latest release remains undeniably modern while taking cues from Stevie Wonder’s socially conscious themes, Wu-Tang’s drum beats and vintage soul chords and melodies. The album fits right into the turbulent year of 2016 and all its sociopolitical strife. Keys does not focus so much on her pet subject of love and inner turmoil on this record – instead, she has branched out to trending topics such as gay rights, climate change and female empowerment, in line with her recent makeup-free public image.
Boasting a full palette of musical colours, Keys’s collaborators and production team are not to be sniffed at. Her husband Kasseem Dean lends the record an unmistakably hip-hop feel, notably in their bold co-written opening number The Gospel, a rhythmic, almost spoken-word commentary on the struggle of escaping the slums of New York. She collaborates with prolific jazz musician Walter Booker in the impeccably composed but oddly titled She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv. This track is pleasantly sprinkled with jazzy ear candy, giving it a highbrow touch.
The singer has been criticised in the past for vocally punching above her weight; here, her breathless, ethereal soprano outro to Illusion of Bliss seems an unnecessary addition to an already poignant song about drug addiction, where the Grammy award-winning artist chillingly inhabits the tortured character in her wailing, husky riffs. It’s almost reminiscent of a Janis Joplin tune with the whisky-smooth Hammond organ laid like a warm blanket over a soulful blues instrumental.
The album ends on an unorthodox note with In Common, a Latin-infused dancehall record produced by Illangelo, long-time collaborator of The Weeknd. Keys’s vocals are subtle, intimate, almost whispering into the listener’s ear the story of a love that shouldn’t be. “If you could love somebody like me, you must be messed up too,” she breathes over a hypnotic dance beat.
Alicia Keys has joined the line-up of this year’s thematically dense, musically refined pop releases, alongside the likes of Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Fantasia. The tracks flow seamlessly from one to the other with light spoken interludes in between heavy grooves, making it a smooth listen for a potentially romantic night in. There is a rough, raw element to her vocals, a committed delivery and flawless production. With Here, the respected artist retains her spot in contemporary R&B royalty.
Here is released on 4th November 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for In Common here: