Thursday, July 7

Alicia Keys: Keys Review: Audacious Experiment Lacking Cold Hits | Music


Llast month, Alicia Keys gave an interview to a women’s magazine in which she exposed her life during the pandemic. Anyone who has had a hard time motivating himself in the past two years, first paralyzed by confinement, then plagued by the feeling that there is no point in doing anything given the current state of the world, may be pleased to learn that even the singer which sells 65 million – songwriters found themselves in a similar bind. When asked if all this time at home had fueled his creativity, he said that was not his experience at all. “I didn’t even know how to work. What was he supposed to work on? Where was he supposed to work? And when? It was a lot to make sure everything was organized and the kids were okay. ‘

Keys's work of art.
Unique company … Keys’s work of art

But when considering the desperately unproductive Keys pandemic, it’s probably worth noting that some people’s idea of ​​not knowing how to work involves being in front of Netflix drunkenly balancing a takeout on their ever-bloated stomach – and some people, well, They do not do it. . In the time since the success of Covid-19, Alicia Keys has published and promoted an autobiography; launched her own “skincare and wellness” brand; recorded and released a collaborative single with Brandi Carlile encouraging voter registration in US elections; promoted a 20th anniversary edition of his debut album, Songs in A Minor; led a 21-day online meditation program in collaboration with Deepak Chopra; starred in her own YouTube documentary series, Noted, alongside her husband Swizz Beatz (“Episode 3: Swizz and I hold back nothing about our love”); appeared in commercials for Mercedes-Benz and the American insurance company Allstate; and announced his first graphic novel.

He also found time to write and record his eighth album, which is an hour and a half long and 26 tracks: it is effectively the same album twice, first in “original” versions “broken down”, the same phrase he used to describe it. Version for piano and voice of Empire State of Mind, soon versions described like “Unlocked”, including Mike Will Made It in co-production with Keys.

Alicia Keys: Lala with Swae Lee – video

It is a strange and perhaps unique company. The Originals versions do not have the “show me your work” quality of demos, nor the outright force of “disconnected” sessions; they are cleverly produced in their own right. Nor does it feel like the bid for the release of Shania Twain Up! ‘S 2002 album, which came out simultaneously in country, pop and Bollywood versions. It’s been compared by its author to contemporary remix albums of old tracks by Nina Simone, someone a less confident artist might think twice about comparing themselves to, particularly considering what’s on offer here.

The first album exists in a space bounded by classic soul, early 70s singer-songwriters, the more exclusive end of MOR, and jazz, which is pretty much where Keys began, albeit without a song as undeniable as their smash hit Fallin ‘. . There is good stuff: the orchestration of Nat King Cole’s Bond theme; the sweet hymn to daffodils (or is it an allegory about the end of the Trump regime, or the loosening of Covid restrictions?), but more often its content elicits weak praise – it’s pretty, so well interpreted. Is It Insane is the kind of thing that simultaneously points out Keys’s strengths and weaknesses – it’s a beautifully torch-sung ballad, but letting it run for six minutes is equivalent to ringing and covering it with fake crackle, like it’s being played with an old woman. Shellac 78, works the point.

Things improve considerably in Keys Unlocked – the jump in emotion levels between the Originals version of Only You and its “produced” version, decorated with snippets of sampled voices and the occasional flurry of gunfire, is immediately startling. Sometimes the improvements are straightforward: the retro soul ballad Old Memories has gotten a better beat; Is It Insane is best for having two minutes reduced from its run time. Sometimes they are more intricate: freshly wrapped in electronic components, the atmosphere of Best of Me changes significantly to a summery drift; Dead End Road, nothing special in its original version, gains something with the addition of a stunned sounding synthesizer.

But, like the Keys notion of pandemic productivity, everything is relative. Unlocked is definitely a better album than Originals, but it’s not an amazing album in its own right. The undeniable and exciting songs are still notable for their absence; It’s certainly not a description that fits a track that doesn’t have an original counterpart, Lala, an Auto-Tuned ride with Swae Lee showcasing Tyrone Davis’s fabulous 1979 slow jam. In the mood. You’re left with an album that seems to say less about the limitless creativity of Alicia Keys than it does about the art of the record producer and the limitations of such art, which can enhance an average song but not transform it into something. extraordinary. You can’t help but think that that wasn’t really the intention.

This week Alexis heard

Saint Etienne – Your winter coat
It is not a Christmas song in itself, but a glorious, cold, melancholic, seasonal breeze that confirms Saint Etienne’s ongoing rebirth.


www.theguardian.com

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