A couple of years ago, a young,
black female armed with nothing but her piano exploded
a music world full of dancing blondes and perfectly in synch boys. Slicing
through the stale mold of pop music, Alicia Keys found her home on Clive Davis
J Records and released her monster smash debut album Songs in A Minor.
The follow-up is a surprising left turn.
It seems to work at times,
but at other moments falters.
Diary of Alicia Keys is a long, beat-driven
set that seems to go overboard in many ways. Conceding to some of todays top
beat makers, Keys sacrifices her creativity for universal pop appeal.
Within the first four tracks, Keys tickles the ivories only once. Its
not until the fifth song that the sultry piano is
present, on the lead single You Dont Know My Name.
Produced by the Kanye West (Jay-Z, Talib Kweli), this track is steadily making
its way up the charts and radio station play lists.
The album is not a total loss, because Keys is truly
talented. Her voice has matured and is huskier as a result. In the stirring,
soulful If I Aint Got You, Keys cries out for the man she has long loved.
Lamenting on how her life is not complete without this passion, the songstress
makes this over-used topic sound fresh. The song Diary,
featuring temporarily reunited soul group Tony! Toni! Toné!, oozes sincerity as Keys
reassures her man that all secrets will be kept
between their two hearts. The production is smooth,
yet has a melodic groove that will certainly make you want to hear the song
again and again.
This album really transforms from average to worthwhile
with its live production, especially on the track Nobody Not Really.
Accompanied by the, jazzy, bass-driven backdrop, this song
leaves the impression that you are in a blue, smoky nightclub listening
to a budding singer for the first time. The few sophomore
slips here are somewhat evident, but dont break the
back of Keys second serving. By the end of the album, it is evident that Keys
is no longer just a talented
newcomer, but a mature artist who is here to stay.