Released: October 7, 2016
Songstress Alicia Keys has gone through a major transformation since her 2012 effort Girl on Fire. First, she had a new addition to her family. Second, she’s been sweating in and out with television shows in the US such as The Voice. And third, and her most prolific moment, was her announcement of stripping the glitz and glamorous aesthetics (a.k.a. make-up and whatnot…) to showcase a natural being rather than what the media wants her to portray or having to “be perfect”. What a tough cookie she is, and big props to that! All in all, this entire ride have all soaked through the singer, and executed on her sixth studio album Here.
Unlike the singer’s previous records, Here sounds a lot more inspired and accessible, especially through her song writing and sound. Speaking about the sound, the record bears a slight resemblance to Solange Knowles’ third album A Seat at the Table, which was served a couple of months ago, and both detailing similar themes of African American culture, family, personal conflicts and a whole lot of love and vulnerability. But unlike Solange’s effort, which I can see as a more experimental effort, Alicia’s album is a little more commercial and contemporary… to an extent. Check out “The Gospel” as an example; a groovy 60s ode to poverty, struggles and African American culture. As the song is also the title of a short film produced for the album, it emphasizes these exact issues, which only highlights Alicia Keys determination and power even more.
But apart from that track, a few selections that I really got interested into were the more uptempo numbers; such as the extremely catchy hit “Blended Family” (with the infectious “that’s what you do, what you do” hook), a reggae touch in “Girl Can’t Be Herself”, the deep-house influenced “In Common”, with some calming moments like “She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv” and old-skool “More Than We Know”. Vocally, I think Here showcases some of her strongest moments such as “Hallelujah” and “Illusion of Bliss”, two entries that showcase a jazzier and 60s-inspired glimmer. And from time and time, Alicia weeps and sheds some vulnerable touches with the solemn “Kill Ya Mama” (even if the delivery in some areas are off) and the universal “Holy War”.
Knowing that Here has 18 tracks, you would believe to think that each track has a valuable and sparkling quality to accentuate Alicia’s ever-growing innovation as an artist. Unfortunately, if you listen to it from start to finish, you will notice some bumps. It’s not that the material is bad or any way a problem, because I find it an intriguing release, but there are moments where it doesn’t stand against other tracks here; fault 1, the interlude tracks (apart from the empowering introduction). To be honest, they sound like last-minute resorts. And knowing that they are featured on the album’s short film, The Gospel, I don’t think they excel the record in high places, making them feel quite redundant or useless.
But even with those skippable moments (five at least), Here is a very cohesive release. In fact, giving that the entire record sets firm in several important themes with a subtle-yet-serious driven sound that only blends effortlessly with Alicia Key’s song writing, Here is definitely the singers best work yet. She’s grown as an artist and as a human being, and to pay it off, Here warrants that well.
Track list (Bold means Best Tracks)
- The Beginning
- The Gospel
- Pawn It All
- Elaine Brown (Interlude)
- Kill Your Mama
- She Don’t Really Care / 1 Luv
- Elevate (Interlude)
- Illusion of Bliss
- Blended Family (What You Do for Love) ~Liam’s favorite~
- Work on It
- Cocoa Butter (Cross & Pic Interlude)
- Girl Can’t Be Herself
- You Glow (Interlude)
- More Than We Know
- Where Do We Begin Now
- Holy War
- In Common