Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Alicia Keys: As I'm Bland

Listening to Alicia Keys is a deflating experience for me. She’s gorgeous, has a solid voice and is obviously talented – but in listening to her new album, As I Am, I get the experience of listening to the musical equivalent of table scraps – someone who has something real to share, but instead serves up the same vaguely empty platitudes of self-empowerment and love over and over. It’s ultimately disappointing, because despite her blandness, I can’t help but think there’s more there.

The album’s songs and arrangements, steeped in touches of 70’s soul, are supposed to signify authenticity, but all they do is reinforce the suspicion that I’m listening to a facsimile of something real. “Superwoman,” in which Keys “overcomes” her sorrow by recognizing her inherent greatness, comes off as vaguely icky and redundant, almost like reading the modern R&B version of a Hallmark card. It all comes off as formula – and even the enjoyable moments of the album, like the luminousness of the melody in “Teenage Love Affair,” all occur as insufficient, missing some sort of key ingredient to make the thing really cook.

Listening to Keys, I can’t help but recollect my joy upon listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for the first time. What I was hearing was not just a wonderful and singular album, but the expression of a woman taking on the world with incisiveness, humor, spirit and sensuality, glossing over nothing and making even her pain seem beautiful.

That was a soul album. As I Am isn’t. It’s a pleasant contemporary R&B album performed by a talented singer who, if she ever going to be a significant artist, needs to dig far deeper into herself and get to something real, maybe even something ugly. As I Am is very pretty...but very vacuous.

Buy Alicia Keys As I Am at Amazon


Unknown said...

Agree completely with you. She always strikes me as an artist who has so many of the right elements to be great, but never remotely gets there.

Anonymous said...

Also agreeing. She's definitely a talented artist with a lot to give but just doesn't seem to completely impress me. But I'm sure she can grow and develop if she crosses over from R&B/Pop and into some real SOUL music.

Jake said...

Great post, and I see you have a great blog here, I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have recently made a Alicia Keys Video fan site. Come and check it out if you get time :-)