“KEYS,” Alicia Keys (RCA Records)
In Alicia Keys’ latest album, the R&B artist gives us an inside look at the duality of her creative process. With her album titled “KEYS”, the 15-time Grammy-winning artist breaks down her album into two versions giving listeners the chance to take in her classical side with “Original” and the more upbeat songs on “Unlocked” featuring producer Mike Will Made-It.
But there’s no need to pick a side.
With “KEYS,” the piano-playing singer takes us through the ups and downs of love and her relationship with her husband, record producer Swizz Beatz, who collaborated with her on the album and is featured by her side in the “Best of Me” music video.
The star, who is known as of late for her barefaced and stripped-down image, is now basking in all her greatness on “KEYS” as she shows off her vocals with elegance and grandeur. She stays true to her piano-playing roots throughout the album as she endeavors to make a name for herself among the greats while paying homage to them.
In “Best of Me” (Originals), Keys gives a nod to Sade by sampling “Cherish The Day” but adds her own smoothness to the mellow song.
“You get the side of me,” she sings. “I would hold back and not reveal.”
Keys makes arrangements similar to Etta James or Billie Holiday in “Is it Insane ” — perfect for unwinding by the fire this holiday season. In her ode to “Nat King Cole,” her voice builds into a cinematic crescendo. The song of the same name on the other side of the album featuring Lil Wayne gives it a dynamic contrast.
While some of her features on the “Unlocked” side fall short, “Come For Me” featuring Khalid and Lucky Daye is a welcome surprise. Khalid and Keys previously collaborated on her “Alicia” album for “So Done” and their musical chemistry shows on this album.
Over the years, Keys has transformed herself while exploring different sides of her talent but in “KEYS” her confidence is apparent.