Thursday, April 29, 2010

Has Alicia Keys' Appeal Taken A Hit?

I’ll be the first to admit that I was one of the biggest Alicia Keys fans when she first debuted on the scene with Songs in A Minor tucked under her wings. Her sound was different and I loved the fact that she had the around-the-way-girl look and not so much the glamour doll with more looks than talent. Her songs were relatable not because it touched on issues most women were familiar with but more so because she actually penned the lyrics.

Alicia could do no wrong in my eyes and nothing made that any clearer than when she released her follow-up album The Diary of Alicia Keys. You know that so called sophomore jinx that artists are said to suffer when they release their second albums? Well, Alicia Keys bypassed all that hoopla and released an even better album than her first.

I, of course, didn’t think that was possible because I was still blasting her Songs in A Minor and could honestly have lived off of just that if she happened to have fallen into the familiar pit that housed all the other one hit wonders of our time. But The Diary of Alicia Keys had classic hits such as “You Don’t Know My Name”, “Diary”, and the fan favorite “If I Ain’t Got You.”

While mainstream America wasn’t paying much attention to the soulful Keys we all loved and adored, we were busy getting sucked into her world of creative lyrics and mind blowing melodies courtesy of her piano. Most of us were actually happy that mainstream didn’t know about this hidden germ.

Alicia topped it all though with an even better classic LP with the release of As I Am. Now, this album… was the truth. It had everything on there to satisfy the music lover in everyone. You had the woman empowering “Superwoman.” You had the song for the kid in all of us who experienced adolescent love with “Teenage Love Affair.” She even had some tracks on there for the old school lovers in us all with “Wreckless Love” and “Where Do We Go From Here.”

The tracks on As I Am were simply perfect and many agreed as told by the 742,000 copies of the album that went flying off the shelves in its first week of release.

As I Am earned Alicia Keys many accolades and catapulted her status making her a household name. The only place she could go was up. That of course was until rumors started to swirl around about her alleged involvement in the soured marriage between Hip-Hop producer Swizz Beatz and his wife Mashonda.

I personally brushed it off and could honestly care less about what was happening when a microphone wasn’t near her mouth, but I did hope that the drama in her personal life wouldn’t affect her music career.

Unfortunately it did.

Besides the fact that every time an article goes up about Alicia on other blogs and websites and we are constantly reminded of the drama, her music seems to have also taken a different turn.

In the recent release of Alicia’s 4th studio album Element of Freedom, the sound was much different.

Since her start, Alicia has always been considered an R&B/Soul singer, but on Element of Freedom she experimented with the genre of Pop which fit like a shoe that was too big.

Yes, there are fans who loved most of the album’s tracks such as “Doesn’t Mean Anything” and “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart”; however, those singles are no where near the same level as the singles that qualified as fillers on her last album. The one single that has been skating up the charts effortlessly is “Unthinkable” and that track drips with R&B.

Unlike the singles on Alicia’s past 3 albums, the singles on Element of Freedom can easily be forgotten in 3 or 4 years or worse, just grow annoying to listen to.

This might have a lot to do with the fact that the album was rushed as it was completed in less than 6 months.

But besides that, Alicia has that authentic ear for what sounds right when it comes to R&B and Soul; Pop seems to be a genre that is better left untouched or explored by her.

Knowing what works for you is key when it comes to being a successful artist and Pop is just not an area that Alicia needs to focus on.

Hopefully in the projects that will follow once she decides to begin work on them, Alicia will figure out the healthy balance in trying something new while still staying acquainted with that which is old; this of course applies to her music.

As for her personal life, it really isn’t her responsibility to address the rumors or state facts about what is true and what isn’t. Some people might believe that she owes them an explanation or her side of the story given the fact that she is known to promote woman empowerment and what she supposedly did goes completely against it, but the fact of the matter is, she doesn’t.

The mystique of a celebrity has definitely been breached. Once upon a time, we as fans would know miscellaneous details about performance artists’ personal lives. We really were just interested in the music they released and that was it.

Maybe her keeping her lips sealed, could do more good than harm and teach us all a lesson that proves that we don’t need to know everything. I would, however, be lying if I said I wouldn’t be interested if she did decide to spill the juice.

What do you think? Has Alicia Keys' appeal worn off?

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