Today’s Top 5: Alicia Keys


When the history of this time is written, what will be said? That it’s when the land made for you and me became the land of us versus them? Or was it when love, like hope before it, won out over doom and gloom? We won’t know until Tuesday, of course, but I can say this without equivocation: I stand with Alicia Keys. I stand with love.

Alicia Keys, of course, released her latest album, Here, this past Friday. It’s a breezy set, at once jazzy, folky and soulful – and utterly addictive. It’s reminiscent, to my ears at least, of Neneh Cherry’s classic Homebrew from the early 1990s, in that it mixes and matches genres, sometimes in the same song, and does so with a deftness that makes it sound effortless (though I’m sure it wasn’t). And, to go hand-in-hand with Here, she also released a cinéma vérité-like short film, The Gospel, on YouTube that’s well worth watching:

About the only negative thing I can say of the album: the two songs she released earlier this year, “In Common” and “Hallelujah,” aren’t included.

Anyway, for today’s Top 5, I’m listing a few of my favorite Alicia Keys tracks, beginning with where it all began…

1) “Fallin’.” To my ears, Alicia’s 2001 debut, Songs in A Minor, is a solid set with glimmers of greatness. All the pieces are in place save one: consistency. That said, when it’s on, such as on this, the first single, it’s magnificent.

2) “If I Ain’t Got You.” The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), her sophomore set, is a stronger album than predecessor, I think, but again lacks consistency. This song and “You Don’t Know My Name” are classics, though.

3) “No One.” Alicia’s third album, As I Am (2007), is another strong set that, like her first two albums, has some consistency issues – which, I should add, most modern albums do. (I blame the CD and its 80-minute length; back in the day, albums generally clocked in around 40 minutes, which meant only the absolute best songs made the cut.)

4) “Teenage Love Affair.” When I told Diane that I was putting together this list, she said to be sure to include this jewel from As I Am; I was planning to, anyway.

5) “Doesn’t Mean Anything.” My most-played Alicia album is The Element of Freedom (2009), which I’ve been known to play over and over again – in fact, I did just that last week, when I listened to it on my commute to work, while at work and then again on the ride home. And this song? It’s my absolute, all-time Alicia favorite…

6) “Empire State of Mind, Part II” …except for maybe this.

7) “Brand New Me.” Alicia’s fifth studio album, Girl on Fire, is another solid set accented by this song of rebirth.

And that’s that. Peace out.

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