Alicia is the seventh studio album by American R&B singer and songwriter Alicia Keys. It was released by RCA Records on September 18, 2020. Written and produced largely by Keys, the album also features songwriting and production contributions from Swizz Beatz, Ludwig Göransson, Rob Knox, Johnny McDaid, and The-Dream, among others.
The album was originally scheduled to be released on March 20, 2020, then May 15, before being delayed further due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven singles were released from Alicia, including the Miguel duet "Show Me Love", "Time Machine", "Underdog", and "So Done", featuring Khalid. Keys is scheduled to embark on Alicia - The World Tour in 2021 after the 2020 dates of the tour were postponed due to the pandemic.
Music and lyrics
Musically, Alicia departs from the loose experimentation of Keys' previous album, Here (2016). Instead, the music revisits the styles of her earlier work, including piano-based ballads and bass drum-driven R&B songs, albeit with less emphatic hooks. The album's direction, which Keys describes as "genreless", is oriented toward evoking a particular mood rather than conforming to a singular sound. According to The New York Times chief pop critic Jon Pareles, the music "often hollows itself out around her, opening deep bass chasms or surrounding sparse instrumentation with echoey voids". While deeming the album often a work of contemporary R&B, Helen Brown of The Independent says it conveys traditional soul melodies "through some stranger—and certainly more eclectic—sounds than she’s tried before". In the process, individual songs incorporate elements of particular styles, including downtempo R&B ("Show Me Love"), old-fashioned funk ("Time Machine"), folk-influenced soul ("Gramercy Park"), dub ("Wasted Energy"), Caribbean music ("Underdog"), and country ("Gramercy Park"). A section of the album's middle tracks substitute piano for acoustic guitar within a more free-form style of neo soul. While none of the album's songs approach a fast tempo, "Love Looks Better" is produced in a lofty pop-soul style.
Alicia continues in the socially-conscious thematic vein of Here, featuring personal narratives that make socio-political connections between the narrator's view of herself and the world around her. Keys says the album reflects different dimensions of her relationship to people as a whole and that writing it encouraged greater introspection. "I never realized how much I relied on only one side", she explains. "How much I had hidden away the parts that expressed anger, rage, sensuality, or vulnerability." In Pareles' observations, the singer advocates equanimity "but it’s often tinged with ambivalence", reflecting "misgivings, recriminations and regrets" shared in her contemporaneous memoir More Myself (2020).
The album opens with "Truth Without Love", which puts forth the idea that truth in society has become "elusive". The next song, "Time Machine", addresses fears of introspection and advocates the pursuit of free thought, rather than longing for the past, as a means to achieve peace of mind. "Underdog" is an ode to "young teachers, "student doctors", and "single mothers waiting on a check to come". More positive pleas for "hope and change" on songs such as "Authors of Forever" are countered by the more desperate sense of hope in the album's closing series of unadorned piano-and-vocal performances, "Perfect Way to Die" and "Good Job", which thematize police brutality and essential work, respectively The former is written from the perspective of a mother in grief over her son, who was shot to death by the police, while the latter is written in tribute to "the mothers, the fathers, the teachers that reach us", and the like completing an ordinary day.
Among the album's love songs, "3 Hour Drive" is a duet between Keys and Sampha, who both lament a lover's separation over a descending chord progression, while "Show Me Love" and "Love Looks Better" express more confident relations between lovers. Both the waltz-like "Gramercy Park" and the Khalid duet "So Done" have the narrator trying to make peace with having struggled to appease the expectations of other people, with the latter expressing a departure from "fighting myself, going to hell" in favor of "living the way that I want".
On September 17, 2019, Keys debuted the album's lead single, "Show Me Love", and its accompanying music video at Dolby Soho in New York City. The first televised performance of the track took place that weekend as part of her set at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival. In November, Keys was joined by Miguel, Pedro Capo and Farruko at the 20th Annual Latin Grammy Awards for a medley of a Spanish version of the song and "Calma".
In December 2019, Keys revealed the album's title in an interview with Billboard, while saying that working on the album and her memoir was "the best therapy I ever had". She formally announced Alicia on January 20, 2020, posting the cover art to her social media accounts. The album was originally scheduled to be released on March 20. However, earlier that month, streaming services listed the date as May 15. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic (declared in March), the release was postponed for September 18.
In January 2020, Keys returned as host for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards and performed the single "Underdog" at the ceremony while joined by Brittany Howard. The single also featured in a TV ad for Amazon Music and was performed by Keys on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Graham Norton Show, BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, and the iHeart Living Room Concert for America (staged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic). Prior to the pandemic's declaration, "Underdog" moved up on the record charts and became Keys' most successful single since 2012's "Girl on Fire". "Good Job" and "Perfect Way to Die" were performed on CNN and the BET Awards 2020, respectively. Keys premiered "Gramercy Park" for NPR's Tiny Desk concerts, alongside "Underdog", "Show Me Love", and her 2001 song "Fallin'". Keys debuted the album's seventh single, "Love Looks Better", live at the NFL Network 2020 Kickoff concert on September 10. During the telecast, she also performed a cover of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to critical acclaim.
During Alicia's week of release, Keys will make appearances on Good Morning America and the iHeartRadio Music Festival, as well as headline a virtual concert in partnership with American Express to coincide with the album's worldwide release on September 18. She is also scheduled to embark on Alicia - The World Tour in 2021, after the 2020 dates of the tour were postponed due to the pandemic.
Alicia Keys‘ seventh album was originally due in March, but then pandemic panic intervened. At the time, the slick pop-R&B single ‘Underdog’ was climbing the charts to become her biggest hit since 2012’s ‘Girl On Fire’, so the six-month push-back probably won’t have boosted its commercial fortunes. But creatively, the delay makes sense, because this album’s combination of positivity, empathy and self-knowledge feels pretty enriching right now.
Keys has described the album as “genreless” and while that’s not technically true, you can definitely see where she’s coming from. As ‘ALICIA’’ glides from throwback funk (‘Time Machine’) to dewy reggae (‘Wasted Energy’), and languid R&B (‘Show Me Love’) to folky soul (‘Gramercy Park’), there’s a sense that Keys cares more about mood here than any specific sound. This is an album that shimmers with warmth and cautious optimism from start to finish. “We’re all in this boat forever, and we’re sailing towards the future and it’s alright,” Keys sings on ‘Authors Of Forever’, a balmy gem with a hint of ’80s Lionel Richie to it.
Combined with a lack of uptempo cuts – let’s be honest, never Keys’ strongest suit anyway – this consistent mood gives the album an impressive sense of cohesion. Only ‘Love Looks Better’, a bombastic pop-soul ballad produced by Adele and Beyoncé collaborator Ryan Tedder, comes close to sticking out. Keys showed a more socially conscious side on her last album, 2016’s ‘Here’, and she continues to engage politically on ‘ALICIA’. Co-written with Ed Sheeran, ‘Underdog’ contains an unpretentious and affecting shout-out to “young teachers” and “student doctors” as well as “single mothers waiting on a check to come”.
More powerful still is ‘Perfect Way To Die’, a timely ballad written from the perspective of a grieving mother whose son has been gunned down by cops. When Keys sings, “just another one gone / And they tell her to move on,” it’s a casually damning condemnation of her country’s inadequate response to police brutality.
The album ends earnestly with ‘Good Job’, a piano ballad dedicated to “the mothers, the fathers, the teachers that reach us” and other ordinary people just trying to get through the day. It could have come off trite and condescending from a woman who sold 16 million copies of her debut album ‘Songs In A Minor’ when she was just 20 years old, but somehow it doesn’t. Like most of ‘ALICIA’, it’s warm, well-meaning and primed to provide some much-needed musical healing.
SOURCE: https://www.nme.com/en_asia/reviews/album/alicia-keys-alicia-review-2755922 User Comments