It's a brand new Alicia Keys on 'Girl on Fire'
Within the first few moments of Alicia Keys' new album, “Girl on Fire,” it's clear that this artist once labeled the new queen of soul is now emulating the confidence needed to fulfill that role.
“It's been a while, I'm not who I was before / You looked surprised, your words don't burn me anymore,” she sings in “Brand New Me” over her trademark R&B piano playing. “Been meaning to tell you, but I guess it's clear to see / Don't be mad, it's just the brand-new kind of me.”
“There is no mystery ... it's severely honest. Every line means exactly what it means,” Keys said by phone from London, where she performed the track for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show earlier this month. “There's no hidden message — I mean it's pretty straightforward.”
This honesty — in conversation and on the album's tracks — are part of a brand new Keys.
Almost three years have passed since her last album, “The Element of Freedom,” but the 31-year-old feels “quantum leaps and bounds” removed from that time period.
“I can't keep count. I definitely know I have a 2-year-old son, so that says a lot,” she laughs. “We are definitely light-years from my last record, and definitely, my first one. But it's a natural evolution at the same time.”
Part of her evolution included becoming a wife (she's married to songwriter-rapper-producer Swizz Beatz), mother and taking the reins of her career by parting ways with longtime manager Jeff Robinson, all in 2010.
She's kept busy with a host of projects, including producing a Broadway play, directing a short film, designing shoes for Reebok, launching an iPhone/ iPad app for kids and producing an upcoming big-screen flick with Jennifer Hudson attached to star, “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.”
Despite so much change, it's still difficult to grasp that Keys, who is a decade into a career that boasts more than 35 million records sold and 14 Grammys, is still settling in. But with “Girl on Fire,” Keys says she has found herself.
“I think it's mostly just stepping into your womanhood,” she said. “I knew I was going to call the album ‘Girl on Fire' the minute that the song was done. It felt so right and accurate for what I've been going through and what I've been feeling.
“(The album) is really about finding your own passion, finding your own flow and standing in your own space. And, just being fully and completely yourself.”
One of pop music's most tried-and-true marketing gimmicks is to tout an artist's latest project as his or her “most personal work to date.” But Keys' undeniable authenticity makes it easy to believe she means it.
Keys arrived in 2001 with the auspicious “Songs in A Minor.” Barely out of her teens, garnered critical approval right out of the box. Her debut balanced classical piano lines, R&B, soul and jazz with achingly personal love anthems such as “A Woman's Worth” and “Fallin.'”
“Songs in A Minor” debuted at No. 1 and went on to earn Keys five Grammys. Her stock has only continued to soar with three additional albums, each of which has gone platinum.
Although “Girl on Fire” reveals Keys at her most vulnerable, it also finds her at her most collaborative. Here she works with Frank Ocean, Bruno Mars, Maxwell, Salaam Remi, Pop & Oak, Jamie xx, Emeli Sande and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. She admits that the new way of working took her out of her comfort zone.
“I never was really so open to doing collaborations in that way, but now in addition to everything else, it felt incredible to do,” Keys said.
The result is an impressive blend of Keys' hallmark classical riffs and R&B-pop melodies with a fresh mix of genre-blending instrumentation.
Gerrick D. Kennedy is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ Harrison awaits go-ahead from Tomlin before practicing
- 4 ejections, benches-clearing scrum mark Pirates’ win over Reds
- Slot cornerback Boykin should give Steelers options in secondary
- Zimbabwe alleges Murrysville doctor illegally killed lion
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- Inside the Steelers: Roethlisberger strong in goal-line drills
- Pa. breeding ground for corruption, experts say
- Pirates notebook: Burnett says ‘surgery is not an option’
- Actress Dushku displaced from Pittsburgh hotel by One Direction
- Blairsville man killed in single-vehicle crash in Derry
- Coal miner Alpha Natural Resources files for bankruptcy