The Element of Freedom
Performer: Alicia Keys
Producer: Alicia Keys...
Distributor: Sony Music Distribution (
Notes: Recording information: Conway Studios, LA; Oven Studios, NY; Strawberrybee Studios, NY. Photographer: Yu Tsai . Don't mistake the presence of Jay-Z and Beyonc� on Alicia Keys' fourth album as evidence that the singer/songwriter is burrowing into modern R&B -- take it instead as evidence of the rarefied company Keys keeps, her status as a superstar so solidified that the only cameos possible are R&B/hip-hop elite. Superstars are often given leeway to do anything they want, and so it is on The Element of Freedom, where Keys dials back the outward expansion of As I Am and turns inward, creating a clean, small-scale collection of ballads and Prince-inspired pop. Always apparent on Alicia's albums, that Prince influence is underscored by how she's swapped the retro-soul instrumentation of her earliest music for electronics, but she's retained the warmth, the throwback sensibility and, especially, a sense of reserve, never getting too heated or gauche. This does mean the Prince elements feel more NPG than Revolution, but Keys trademark always has been an easy elegance. On The Element of Freedom, that elegance is so easy it borders on the sleepy, with Keys' understatement undercutting livelier numbers -- chief among them the bubbly Beyonc� duet "Put It in a Love Song" -- so they play as ballads. This isn't a complaint so much as a characteristic: her voice may crack on "Love Is My Disease," but Keys never gets gritty, she remains reserved, never letting her singing or arrangements obscure the melodies or the classy veneer of the entire proceedings. All this determined detachment keeps The Element of Freedom from packing a primal, passionate punch, but there is charm in Alicia's enveloping, quiet cool: she may never break a sweat, but she knows how to sustain a sultry, not necessarily sexy, mood, and she does so here quite fetchingly. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rolling Stone (p.56) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The superb Prince homages, 'Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart' and 'This Bed,' are experiments that pay off big..." Entertainment Weekly (p.81) - "[O]ver four albums she's established herself as an increasingly rare thing in pop music: the class act. It's made her a consistently gratifying artist..." -- Grade: A-
Precocious R&B vocalist/pianist Alicia Keys was hand-picked by Clive Davis as one of the flagship artists for his post-Arista label, J Records. No doubt he was as impressed by her multitude of skills (Keys took a large role in the writing, arranging, and production of her debut album) as by her music, which mates contemporary hip-hop accoutrements to an old-school soul sensibility � la Jill Scott or D'Angelo. Only 20 years old at the time of the album's release, Keys already seemed poised for a major career built upon her soulful voice and classically trained piano chops. While hip-hop played a much bigger role on her sophomore effort, 2003's THE DIARY OF ALICIA KEYS, it was a smash nonetheless, and subsequent recordings have further pushed the boundaries of R&B.
Also Appears On:
Aaliyah Adams, Yolanda Amerie Anderson, Sunshine Ashanti Badu, Erykah Bilal Braxton, Toni Cantrell, Blu D'Angelo David, Craig Des'ree Destiny's Child Dupri, Jermaine Furtado, Nelly Gourdin, Noel Gray, Macy India.Arie Johnson, Syleena Lamya Larrieux, Amel Legend, John Lucy Pearl Michele, Chrisette Mo, Lil' Ne-Yo Rihanna Scott, Jill Shand, Remy Stone, Angie Toya (Religious) Van Hunt
Adams, Oleta B.I.G., Notorious (The) Badu, Erykah Blige, Mary J. D'Angelo Flack, Roberta Gaye, Marvin Hayes, Isaac Hill, Lauryn Jackson, Janet Jay-Z Maxwell (R&B) Prince Sade Simone, Nina Vandross, Luther Wonder, Stevie
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