Alicia Keys album review

Is Alicia Keys's new album, The Element of Freedom, any good?

Music feature

The Element of Freedom

What’s more frustrating about the album title The Element of Freedom: its meaninglessness or its false advertising? Eight years after a 20-year-old Alicia Keys burst into the world with a Grammy in her mouth, the soul siren purports to represent her true inner essence (as steered by a cabal of male hip-hop producers). We guess The Diary of Alicia Keys and As I Am didn’t do the trick.

What the album teaches us is that deep behind Keys’s chrysalis of fame and great skin lies a budding intern for a greeting-card company. Keys states – with a dreamy slow-jam devoted to each simple trope – that love is ‘strong,’ ‘blind,’ ‘like the sea’ and a ‘disease.’ She finds far more success and inspiration with her mattress, as proven by the stunning, laser-lit single ‘Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart’ and the very Prince-like ‘This Bed’.

Even with such meagre lyrics to chew on, her breathy, soothing voice captivates. Working with Jeff Bhasker, the studio dude manning Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak, Keys floats away from R&B into a soft grey haze of vaporous keyboards, dripping-icicle piano notes and muffled kick-drum thumps.

But freedom? Sorry. This songbird has made such a home in the corporate music tree: cut her open and there’s nothing but sap.
Brent DiCrescenzo
Available in stores.

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