Precocious R&B vocalist/pianist Alicia Keys was hand-picked by Clive Davis as one of the flagship artists for his post-Arista label, J Records. No doubt he was as impressed by her multitude of skills (Keys took a large role in the writing, arranging, and production of her debut album) as by her music, which mates contemporary hip-hop accoutrements to an old-school soul sensibility … la Jill Scott or D'Angelo. Only 20 years old at the time of the album's release, Keys already seemed poised for a major career built upon her soulful voice and classically trained piano chops. While hip-hop played a much bigger role on her sophomore effort, 2003's THE DIARY OF ALICIA KEYS, it was a smash nonetheless, and subsequent recordings have further pushed the boundaries of R&B.
Songs in A Minor Alicia Keys Label: J-Records Release Date: 6/26/2001 1 Piano & I - 1:52 2 Girlfriend - 3:34 3 How Come You Don''t Call Me - 3:57 4 Fallin'' - 3:30 5 Troubles - 4:28 6 Rock Wit U - 5:36 7 A Woman''s Worth - 5:03 8 Jane Doe - 3:48 9 Goodbye - 4:20 10 The Life - 5:25 11 Mr. Man - 4:09 12 Never Felt This Way (Interlude) - 2:01 13 Butterflyz - 4:08 14 Why Do I Feel So Sad - 4:25 15 Caged Bird (Outro) - 3:02 16 Lovin'' U - 3:49
She may be beautiful, but Alicia Keys is a musician first and foremost. She plants herself firmly behind the piano keys on her debut, unlike many of the booty-waggin' junior divas who are crowding the R&B videoscape these days. Though many of the tracks on Songs in A Minor are embellished with adolescent angst, this 20-year-old's substantial, gorgeously soul-drenched alto putties the cracks between notes with astonishing ease. "Fallin'," the album's first single, showcases Keys at her best. She wails plaintively and passionately over rolling blues chords, in the tradition of the greats that this young talent clearly wants to align herself with--Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Aretha Franklin. She swoops and soars over the spicy, flamenco-fueled melody that opens "Mr. Mann," one of the many winning tracks gathered here. And she digs deep into a remake of the beloved Prince B-side, "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" packing more heat into her melismatic wails than most singers twice her age. --Sylvia W. Chan
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