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Alicia Keys is a hit. At this point everybody knows this R&B singer-songwriter as well as excellent pianist. She's had four studio albums leading up to her most recent release Girl On Fire released November 22. This album doesn't let up at all and is one of her best, as well as most complete. The album comes at a big time in Keys' personal life shortly following her marriage to rapper Swizz Beats along with the birth of her first child Egypt. So with Alicia Keys' life changing as she knows it, Girl On Fire really reflects it. It's one of the better albums to come out of 2012.
Girl On Fire debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200, with 159,000 copies sold. It deserves the spot. Alicia Keys never seems to let up, and this album title is the perfect way to describe her and this album.
The album deserves a track by track review due to the variety of music shown as well as how each track stands out from one another. It's a rare occasion when most of the tracks could be singles themselves, while flowing together so well that they work off one another to make an excellent album.
Girl On Fire kicks off with a very pretty piano piece by Keys "De Novo Adagio" to bring the listener in, setting up the sweet "Brand New Me". "Brand New Me" is the second single from the album but also is my personal favorite. It’s simply a great track of Keys and her piano melody confronting an ex and describes how she has grown and flourished from the hurt. It's a liberating song for her to lift her chin up about. She's become a stronger woman all in one song. She's not mad at the person, but she likes who she’s become. It's a whole lot of romantic torment and emotion tied into one song and it really is just an excellent listen.
The simpler "Brand New Me" leads the way for the more musically layered "When It's All Over." The song has a more electro-jazz vibe, however the highlight of the track really comes at the end when a precious recorded moment between Keys and baby Egypt ends the song. It's a very cute mother-son moment. This is followed by "Listen To Your Heart," a modern electro track. It's not the best, in fact, this and "When It's All Over" along with a later track is probably the only low point on the album.
Girl On Fire picks up right away after a down moment with "New Day." This song has more hip hop elements infused along with some empowering lyrics, this song is literally the spark that starts the fire. Naturally it comes before the title track "Girl On Fire (Inferno Version)" featuring Nicki Minaj. Now I'm not one to say Minaj doesn't do well with the track, I just personally felt that the original version with just Keys is better and is more fitting to the album. Either way, "Girl On Fire" is a great song of some of Alicia Keys best vocals, this single is very powerful. Titled after a magazine article written about Keys, the song itself is very uplifting and very empowering. It's Alicia Keys stepping into the spotlight and become the best she could be. It's a song that will stick with you, and that’s the goal.
The fire continues with "Fire We Make" which takes this girl on fire, and takes that same soul and emotion, toned down and turned into a slow love groove. It's the other end of the spectrum from "Girl On Fire," but it's got all the heat tied into the lyrics with guest Maxwell's falsetto vocals adding depth along with an excellent guitar showing from Gary Clark Jr. It's a very well put together track, and embodies the heat from lust and love turning it into music. This is where the heat to the girl on fire comes from. Following this is another one of my favorite songs from the track. Lifting the mood, "Tears Always Win" shows an upbeat piano melody with lonely lyrics. It's a swirl of emotion, but is a well-versed 'I miss you' anthem with some writing assistance from Bruno Mars, stands out as one of the best tracks Girl On Fire has to offer.
"Not Even The King" strips the music down to the basics. Just Alicia Keys and her piano, where she truly strives. It's when she can really be herself and is the essential of Alicia Keys, which is always enjoyable to listen to. "That's When I Knew" follows, which is also one of the albums better tracks. This is one of the more underrated blocks of Girl On Fire. "That's When I Knew" is a timeless romantic acoustic melody, with a whole lot of heart, and also accompanies some of Keys' best vocals on the album. This sounds like one of the tracks that meant alot to her, you can hear it in her voice. She lets loose a whole lot of soul and a whole lot of love, which is all the makings for an excellent song. One can imagine this was a song devoted around her new marriage.
Almost reaching the end of the album, she lets loose a little reggae-funk track "Limitedless." It's something new from Keys and it's a fun listen. "One Thing" is one of the weaker tracks on the album. It's another break-up track, but this doesn't mean it's a bad song, it just doesn't standout as much as all the others. The album closes out with 101. It's a perfect track to close Girl On Fire out with. The key is minor, the lyrics are somber, and the mood is low. As the song hits too low, Keys starts climbing into a musical finale and the flame flares. The spirit climbs and Alicia Keys leaves the listener with a sense of assurance that Keys will be okay, and the flame that is her spirit is still burning strong well after the album ends.
Alicia Keys has released another gem with Girl On Fire. I recommend the album, and I certainly recommend it listened to in one sitting to get the whole album experience. Alicia Keys is on fire, and at a high point in her life, I couldn't possibly see her stopping here.
Alicia Keys - "Brand New Me":