I walked into a shop the other day, Teenage Love Affair was playing and I could not help but hum along. It was characteristic of the infectious nature of songs from Alicia Keys.
Another dose of Alicia Keys, which is populating my ipod is Million Dollar Bill, the anthemic comeback smash she penned for Whitney Houston, which is reminiscent of her hit, No One from As I Am.
You can automatically hear Alicia singing it and it is telling of her craftsmanship as singer / songwriter and pianist that she has established a trademark style much as Ne-Yo has.
Lately, her signature style has been somewhat resisted by those who feel she is too middle of the road, but I, like many fans take comfort in knowing that Keys so well does Keys – delivering a unique brand of 21st century music iced with sophistication and musicality which reflects her musical hybrid of soul, hip-hop, jazz and classical. Her influences range from Nina Simone to Frederic Chopin to Tupac Shakur and it shows.
If you already have her first three platinum certified albums the 2001 debut Songs In A Minor, 2003’s The Diary of Alicia Keys and 2007’ As I Am, this beautifully packaged collection is a great way to indulge in the growth of this artist who combines vulnerability with strength.
The nine Grammy wins are justified and it is a sublime trip down memory lane rediscovering the joys of the Karaoke favourite Fallin’, A Woman’s Worth, How Come You Don’t Call Me and Girlfriend, from her debut.
The Diary Of Alicia Keys spawned You Don’t Know My Name and If I Ain’t Got You. As I Am delivered a change in direction with a combination of ‘rock ‘n Soul – Janis Joplin meets Aretha Franklin’ as Keys put it, exemplified by cuts such as Like You’ll Never See Me Again, Teenage Love Affair and Superwoman.
There is bonus content in the form of Lovin U, though you will have to buy her last studio album The Element of Freedom for a hint of the 2009 Jay-Z duet Empire State of mind.
Keys is rightly compared to Stevie Wonder and has been immortalised in song by Bob Dylan, which points to her caliber and the esteem within which she is held in the music industry. Talented, insightful and smart, she is also an author, an actress and has a production company, BPLP, which has deals with Disney and the CW Network – the latter will debut her coming-of-age dramedy Zora.
Her philanthropic work with Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment to children and their families with HIV/AIDS in Africa and the developing world, and her humanitarian efforts as a board member of Frum Tha Ground Up, a non-profit organisation devoted to inspiring young Americans, demonstrate the same heart and soul which is encapsulated in her music. Through her music, Keys speaks freely and thank goodness she has something worth listening to.
UK fans can experience the audiovisual delights of Alicia Keys during her The Element of Freedom Tour, which arrives later this month, when she will be clad in Giorgio Armani. She will also be playing at Radio 1’s Big Weekend between 22 and 23 May. I’ve seen her live and have faith that it wil be a platinum performance.
Alicia Keys The Platinum Collection is out now
For more information on Alicia Keys visit:
© Fiona McKinson
The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at [email protected].