Music Review: Alicia Keys' "The Element of Freedom" (Another Opinion)

12/13/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Sanela Djokovic

The title of the fourth studio album from Alicia Keys, "The Element of Freedom," may be referring to the artist’s freedom of making the record, but it can very well be applied to a sense of freedom listeners experience when they hear it. Keys has constructed her most impressive set of songs to date by leaning on a more pop-oriented, romanticized and classic shoulder.

The first single off the album, "Doesn’t Mean Anything," is a strong introduction that did not get played nearly as much as a lot of her previous singles. In a sense, it’s no wonder, because a song so unfussy doesn’t seem to fit in too well with everything else gaining airplay. On the other hand, it is a little weird that there isn’t a demand for some effortless, enjoyable music from one of the music industry’s most eminent and trustworthy musicians. The second single, "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart," is the epitome of what many music fans have been missing, exhibiting precision-blending Pop and R&B, tender moments of heartbreak, an elevating sense of hope and a catchiness from beginning to end.

Alicia Keys has described her latest album as a balanced effort, “one side is strong and one side is vulnerable.” A good example of the strong side is "Wait Til You See My Smile," which is musically heartening, almost orchestral and cinematic. It is a song about self-assurance and standing strong in the face of haters with lyrics that call out to everyone, such as: “Don’t they love to see you down?” and “You’re stronger and you’re better and you’re ready for whatever.” Two strong female voices compose "Put it in a Love Song," which features Beyonce. It is a fun, up-tempo ladies anthem on this otherwise mellow album, thanks to the common ground the two women find in their considerable stylistic differences.

The “vulnerable” side of the album is certainly more satisfying. "Love is My Disease" is an unapologetic and raw emotional eruption from the start. Keys understands the value in the basics. Her bleeding vocals captures the sadness, longing, confusion and helplessness when she sings “I thought love would be my cure, but now it's my disease.” Other songs, such as "Distance and Time," are vulnerable in a different way, reflecting idealism in love, but also in her musical style. Another notable track is "Unthinkable (I’m Ready)," an enticing and sexy song about throwing caution to the wind, and which features an echoing background vocal by Drake.

Alicia Keys must be pretty happy these days, because "The Element of Freedom" is adorned with positive energy and is almost daydream-inducing.

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