As I Am
Grammy winner and chart topping R&B singer/songwriter, Alicia Keys, is returning with her third studio album As I Am. The 12-track CD (14-tracks with an iTunes purchase) is complete with production by Linda Perry (Pink, Christina Aguilera), John Mayer and familiars from previous albums like the Kerry Brothers.
It has been three years since Keys’ last album The Diary of Alicia Keys, which sold over eight million worldwide and garnered the hits You Don’t Know My Name and I Ain’t Got You. While As I Am is a solid effort and it many ways stronger than her last two albums, I think it’s safe to say that Keys’ will not be able to surpass or even match her previous work. This is the price an artist pays when they take a risk.
The word "risk" might be too dramatic for Alicia Keys, but in a musical world where every move is predictable - the 27 year-old songwriter surely has created the unexpected. Outside of the first single No One and the Prince-ish ballad Like You’ll Never See Me Again, the new album is not an R&B sound. While it’s refreshing to hear the sometimes trite Keys go out of her comfort zone; her hardcore R&B fanbase might be perplexed at songs such as Tell You Something (Nana’s Reprise), Sure Looks Good To Me and Lessons Learned, which features John Mayer. As I Am is a rock/folk/blues record that could be a Pink or U2 CD.
Whatever the case, Keys still delivers - vocally, Keys souls it out like she never has before in powerful ballads like Thing About Love or Like You’ll Never See Me Again, which has a sample from Prince’s 1991 hit Diamonds & Pearls. The songstress manages to find a balancing act between "souling" and not over singing, especially in the woman’s anthem Superwoman as she cries, "Even when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest with an S on my chest, oh yes, I’m a superwoman."
Musically, Keys leaves the overproduced, plastic beats that at one time tainted her previous albums to the folks who can’t sing like Ciara and Cassie. Each song feels organic with heavy instrumentation, intricate melodies, which throw her out of the confines of contemporary R&B.
Maybe Alicia Keys will surprise the world of contemporary R&B and convert fans to a more organic sound. However, it seems like Alicia might suffer the same curse as Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics album. If an artist is too intelligent, too musical, or too interesting - they won’t sell.
by Alicia Keys
Original Release Date: November 13, 2007