With the 2001 release of Fallin Alicia Keys was declared one of the most promising new of artists of the twenty-first century and she continues to fulfill that prophecy. All four of her albums have reached number one, and she has honed her craft with every release. Her newest effort, As I Am, presents a portrait of a maturing singer-songwriter ruminating on relationships and self-love with a slew of tremendous songs.
If Songs in A Minor reflected an urban R’B and The Diary of Alicia Keys was a classy throwback to old-school R’B, then As I Am merges the two sounds. Unlike her second album, this one remains largely mid-tempo. The first two songs, “Go Ahead” and “Superwoman” present classic Keys, but the album’s first single, “No One,” is an standout. Her soulful vocals rise harmoniously with a unique beat.
“Like You’ll Never See Me Again” is another outstanding track. It is a sensual song where Keys implores a lover to “love me like you’ll never see me again” that is sure to be a hit when it released as the second single. This is possibly one of the best songs Keys has ever produced, definitely one for couples to warm themselves to this winter.
“Lesson Learned” is an inspiring track, a testament to the transcendent beauty and wisdom that can emerge from a failed relationship as she declares: “Yes, I was burned but I call it a lesson learned.” The next song, “Wreckless Love,” is an impassioned display of affection as Keys breathily sings in staccato bursts: “Let’s take it there when you / Didn’t know me/ Didn’t need me / Wanted to touch me / Couldn’t leave me.”
“The Thing About Love” is a gospel-tinged, blues lament, preceding the peppy, 70’s R’B sound of “Teenage Love Affair” wherein Keys traces the world encompassing rapture that only teenage love can bring.
“I Need You” is possibly the best up-tempo song on the album featuring blasting drums, guitars, and horns guided by Keys’ piano; “Prelude to a Kiss” is a short jazzy piece, which builds up to a powerful slow song “Tell You Something (Nana’s Reprise).”
The album ends with a manifesto of courage and transformation on “Sure Looks Good to Me” where risking it all for a better day is better than nothing.
It’s been four years of waiting for her third original recording, but she’s yet again proved her staying power and artistic prowess. In an era where songs are constructed for a few weeks of Top 40 glory, it’s refreshing that an artist can produce an album of songs that don’t wear with replays, but grow all the more impressive for their artistry and passion.
Alicia Keys – I Need You