Likes: Brand New Me, Fire We Make, Not Even a King, One Thing
Overall: Sexy & evocative; some basic lyrics
After the underwhelming and bland “Element of Freedom” and a post-pregnancy hiatus that seemed too long, Alicia Keys comes back a “Girl on Fire”- sort of. Keys’ favorite topics, all-consuming love and personal growth, are sometimes expressed in a cliché` manner and musically, the mostly mid-tempo album fails to really go ablaze. However, Keys’ passionate delivery (albeit occasionally out of her vocal range) united with the mix of tender, sultry (especially “Fire We Make” with Maxwell) and charismatic production make for an enchanting album. Additionally, the singer-songwriter’s ability to easily mesh a variety of genres (ex. jazz, classical & reggae) and influences from various time periods (60’s, 70’s & 90’s) with the contemporary is always stunning and well-appreciated. The most unnecessary facet is the disruptive and detached feature from Nicki Minaj on the title track that can stand on its own. Looking at her entire of body of work, “Girl on Fire” could be considered Keys’ sexiest and most intimate record. Another plus in comparison to previous albums is that there is NO FILLER. One might mark a track or two as their least favorite, but not utterly useless. Comprehensively, there still isn’t much of a break or change from her artistic formula, but in her case, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a formula that’s pleases on all fronts: creatively salient, heartfelt and appealing to the masses.