Likes: The Gospel, Illusion of Bliss, Hallelujah
Dislikes: Pawn it All
Overall: Great cultural commentary, boring musically
Activism, human peril, city life, personal development and the black experience have always been filaments in Alicia Keys' brand and art, so it's surprising that she didn't release an album like Here--which wholly focuses on these themes--a long time ago. Perhaps America's fuming social climate is what urged her toward her first record with only 1 love song (i.e. "Work on It"). Some might include "Where Do We Begin Now" in that count, but the same-sex context is likely socio-politically motivated. Keys' intent and attachment to the material is detectable, and the commentary is straight-forward. Some of the most salient tracks are "Illusion of Bliss" and "Kill Your Mama." The former attends to addiction and brings James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and Keys' own "Fallin'" to mind, while "Mama" discusses how the current generation is misusing the gifts afforded to them by their predecessors. Though the messages are there, musical appeal isn't. Many artists employ minimalism to direct attention to their lyrics, but it can often do the opposite. Rhythm and/or drama are typically what adheres phrases to our subconscious. Here's workaday character prevented me from being present with ease. Additionally, spoken-word and conversation interludes have long been an elevation tool in hip-hop and R&B, but those featured on this record (with the exception of the one by activist Elaine Brown) are shallow. I know I'm supposed to be in love with this project, but I'm not. Another album to hit the "I don't hate it, but I'm not going to listen to it again" pile.