Alicia originally signed to Columbia Records and gave us a fleeting glance into her talents on the ‘Men In Black’ soundtrack way back when. Alicia’s debut set finally gets to reach the masses, having being rescued by former Arista head honcho Clive Davis, who has given it a home at his increasingly credible new set up J Records.
And reach the masses it has, having raced to the top of the US pop charts selling in excess of 250,00 copies in the process. Remarkably the album has achieved this without a hint of compromise. Be warned: stay away if you take your soul with a Scandinavian remix or a guest rap from ‘MC Hot At The Moment’ as this is the real deal. ‘Girlfriend’ is a rock-fuelled ditty commenting on the perils of a man juggling female company with having a relationship which reeks of self experience.
Deeper moments creep up and grab you exemplified by ‘Fallin” and the spine-tingling Stevie Wonder-esque ‘Troubles’, whilst growing up on a staple diet of Aretha Franklin shines through on ‘Why Do I Feel So Sad’. ‘Rock Wit U’ revolves around a groove the Love Unlimited Orchestra would have been proud of, and one is left waiting with baited breath for big Barry’s vocals to kick in.
They never do of course which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s been well documented about her classically trained playing skills but Ms Keys can more than hold a note vocally, best demonstrated on the Stephanie Mills cover ‘How Come You Don’t Call Me’ which is a real ‘hide the crystal glasses and cover that chandelier’ moment. Balancing the album on the fine line between contemporary and retrospective (highlighted by collaborations with Kandi and Isaac Hayes) has been an act of pure genius.