Too many artists today are tweaked, fine-tuned and stamped into the world that is mainstream music, but Alicia Keys falls far from that definition.
With a rugged, unabashed soul sound and empowering lyrics, Keys' newest album, "Girl on Fire," is anything but a metaphor.
No one since legends such as Etta James, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston has sung with such soul as that of Alicia Keys. The multi-talented musician and pianist has been showcasing her dynamic vocal range since her first number one hit, "Fallin'," hit radio waves in 2001. Her newest album has the same swooping ballads that Keys is known and loved for, but also has a new, stronger edge. After giving birth to her son, Egypt Daoud, in 2010, Keys seems to have a brand new outlook on life and love, and most importantly on herself. The strength that she's gained from her new family and the love of her husband and music collaborator, Kasseem Dean, popularly known as Swizz Beatz, in late 2010. Beatz is featured throughout the new album and is first seen on the second track, "Brand New Me."
In the song, Keys says, "It took a long, long road to get here. It took a brave, brave girl to try. ... If you noticed that I'm different, don't take it personally. Don't be mad, It's just a brand new kind of me."
Right off the bat, it is apparent that this is not just going to be another album about falling in love like what usually comes from the R&B songstress. Songs like this one and following tracks, like "When It's All Over" and "New Day," are all about growth and empowerment within oneself to chase one's dreams and keep on moving. The album slowly shifts from powerful pop hits back toward the soulful melodies that Keys never fails at.
With tracks such as "Fire We Make" and "Tears Always Win", there's a softer side that begins to emerge from the new-found edgy singer. These smooth-flowing love songs are most likely inspired by Keys' recent marriage to Beatz. "Not Even the King," a standout track on the album, is still very much in her perfected R&B ballad style. This track has a singer-songwriter vibe reminiscent of Norah Jones.
Soft and sweet, Keys describes the love she feels for her husband as priceless, saying, "I don't care what they're offering, how much gold they can bring. They can't afford what we've got, not even the kings."Last, but certainly not least, Keys brings down the house in the title track, "Girl on Fire." With her soaring vocals and newfound inner strength, she can literally do no wrong. Even adding Nicki Minaj to the mix wasn't a miss, but instead a total win. Final verdict? A must buy.