When I heard Ms Keys was producing a new album, I was interested in what she was going to bring out of her bag of tricks. Lets Recap; her first album Songs in A Minor, introduced us to the story telling piano songs, The Diary of.. was more uptempo introducing her melodic melodrama all over again, it’s hard to tell whats fact or fiction with her lyrics.
After Rinse and Recycle on the old albums, lets skip the Bond song and we’re back on track. Initial thoughts were impressive ‘Brand New me’ follows after an impressive intro, I looked over the notes and did see the dreaded Nicki Minaj song down the line, I could only hope for the best and prey it would be over quick.
I’m a lyrical snob and often go off a song if it doesn’t have the correct flow, ‘When it’s all over’, feels a bit like that, it plows on ahead with Keys vocal ability and on the Steven Scale of Wailing we’re not in the Christina league yet, she keeps the jazz smooth bass plucked and easy, even ropes in the baby to sing on the track, which is heart melting, if not a little bit off putting.
She moves away from the baby talk on to what sounds like baby making (Insert Quagmire’s catch phrase here). The album offers a mix of drum beats, I do feel that she’s holds herself back by returning to the piano, ‘New Day’ is a sign of this, the loops are fine but she’s retreats to the piano again, it’s almost as if she’s got self conscious or even to remind us this “it’s me Alicia Keys, I’m on the piano’ then spewing out a melody, before letting a drum do all the hard work, which the first 30 seconds felt like this was in effect, I was really pumped and then she goes back to the piano it kills the mood.
I’ve noticed something very off putting about this album, yes you get the Keys Piano satisfaction but she’s not attempting anything new it’s that lucky christmas sweater that comes out every few years, the drum loops are the same even re-listening to some of the Classic singles, it’s as if they liked it recycles it and re-sells it if you were around in 2001 you may remember the 4 re-re-re-packaged Songs in A minor and then resells it 10 years later, as if we threw it away, Nicki Minaj isn’t as annoying as anticipated, she adds a third heat, (30 Rock reference there) to the track which is in definite need of it.
Girl on Fire is more ash than flame where other female artists are trying to be new and exciting, Keys likes here stance, she’s still talking about her lovers and that’s great, we’re happy for you, but 4 albums down the line like force feeding stale bread. Girl on Fire Musically is almost Bi-polar in terms that half is drum loops and others are Smooth jazz it’s like they ran out of money on the budget so just kept the originals where Keys just plays and the world can turn.
You can imagine having this on in the back of a coffee shop, which is boring and safe, Keys again does this well she’s in her safe zone, ‘Not even the King’ talks about the 1%, which she’s apart of, but again it’s not the nose like she’s pointing and making a spectacle she’s saying that something she’s got, which I’m guessing is some soppy love reference but then rolls off on to a Humpty Dumpty reference and never returns to it just mentioned it that she has something they can’t buy, if she’s referring to her child then it makes sense, but it’s slapped in the middle rather than something to end on, between that and creating words like Limitedless, maybe you need to step away from the Piano and read the dictionary Ms Keys, saying that when she ends the album on 101 it’s a highlight and should have been a more dominate sound rather than ending on it.
Overall, it’s safe, it’s coffee house background music at best; it had the tools, it didn’t work.