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Released: 23rd July 2001.

Alicia Keys - Songs In A MinorVery rarely do you see a new artist emerge on the music scene and create such a stir as Alicia Keys managed to do. She's been compared to the biggest names in the industry, such as Prince and Aretha Franklin, and topped the US album chart in the first week of release. So is it just the hype, or is there something truly captivating in "Songs In A Minor?"

The first song I heard was "Fallin'," and indeed I fell for it instantly. It's one of those songs that you just feel overjoyed while listening to, a phenomenon that happens once per year at most. Then I listened to the rest of the album and I was surprised.

Not only does it keep the same brilliant level of originality and realness, but it forms a whole proper album, not some random collection of songs. The powerful vocals vary so much depending on the mood of each song, which is something absolutely unexpected.

The intro, "Piano & I," is exactly what the title says, classical piano tune combined with Alicia's urban heritage, making this a great introduction to the album. Next, is the upbeat Jermaine Dupri collaboration, "Girlfriend," with its catchy melodies, followed up by the very decent Prince cover of "How Come You Don't Call Me" (his "highness" was so impressed he invited Alicia to perform it during his celebration party).

The haunting "Troubles" fits in nicely between the mentioned above "Fallin'" and the groovy "Rock With U", previously featured on the "Shaft" soundtrack. After that things get even better on the bluesy "Woman's Worth" and the sassy Kandi-collaboration on "Jane Doe" (note: it sounds nothing like any other Kandi song and it doesn't dis men).

"Goodbye" is closest to your typical R&B song, with Alicia's mature-beyond-age lyrics and simply fantastic melody, while the duet with labelmate Jimmy Cozier, "Mr. Man," brings back the darker, more sohpisticated sound. "Butterflyz" has to be one of the best piano ballads ever written, and "Why Do I Feel So Sad," with its perfect guitar and base lines, makes you wow once again.

The outro, "Caged Bird," is a quiet little number that would finish the album perfectly, but there's a surprise - a bonus track, "Lovin U," which sounds like it could easily be a Mary J Blige song.

Overall, it's one of the best albums, probably the best one this year, with no dullness at all. Oh, and Alicia Keys not only sings on it, but wrote, arranged, produced and played most instruments on almost all the tracks. Anything else you need to know? Thought so. Go and get it.

* * * * * (Aneta Janssen)

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