Alicia Keys - Songs In A Minor 10th Anniversary (2011)

Alicia Keys

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Her beginnings were humble and her road to superstardom was a rocky one, but few ever doubted the abilities of Alicia Keys. Pretty and personable, the Hell’s Kitchen native was practically born to perform, gifted with sophisticated knowledge of musical composition and a signature style that combined her innate swagger with sultriness and sass. To behold her now is to acknowledge her stellar achievements-----the acting roles, platinum plaques, packed-out tours and slew of industry accolades----but to truly appreciate her journey is to realize how sturdy of a foundation she actually built, and that’s what’s accomplished with this deluxe re-issue of her number-one debuting CD, Songs in A Minor .

Her beginnings were humble and her road to superstardom was a rocky one, but few ever doubted the abilities of Alicia Keys. Pretty and personable, the Hell’s Kitchen native was practically born to perform, gifted with sophisticated knowledge of musical composition and a signature style that combined her innate swagger with sultriness and sass. To behold her now is to acknowledge her stellar achievements-----the acting roles, platinum plaques, packed-out tours and slew of industry accolades----but to truly appreciate her journey is to realize how sturdy of a foundation she actually built, and that’s what’s accomplished with this deluxe re-issue of her number-one debuting CD, Songs in A Minor .

Listening to Songs….. a full decade after its release makes one realize how the 19-year-old Alicia Augello Cook became a phenomenon in the first place: cute singing R&B chicks were practically a dime a dozen, but one who else could invoke the spirit of Beethoven, recall the emotional anguish of a Billie Holiday, bang it out like a B-Girl and have the chutzpah to cover Prince? Please. She pulled into that lane and straight –up cruised, thanks to the eponymous “Fallin’,” the anguish conveyed in “Why Do I Feel So Sad” and numbers that were delivered with much attitude but also somehow revealed a raw turmoil underneath: “A Woman’s Worth” introduced and solidified her pro-woman stance, for example (up until Mashonda-gate anyway), but “Girlfriend” showed that she could still be slain by the green-eyed monster and her resonant cover of the immortal Prince ballad, “How Come You Don’t Call Me,”  displayed a young woman’s yearning, but an older woman’s recognition of love’s fleeting fragility.

Disc two could have satisfied expectations by replicating 2002’s Remixed and Unplugged in A Minor, but it actually goes the extra mile by offering up some never-before released gems, such as the homemade “Typewriter,” the cracked vinyl, pimptastic ambience of “Ghettoman,” a guitar-driven funkdafied demo of Gladys Knight’s “If I Were Your Woman” and a swag-slinging ‘chucking-the-dueces’-themed “Juiciest” (laid saucily over that legendary Mtume track as she croons to her ex that “I don’t care if you don’t want to call me anymore, cuz I’m the juiciest baby girl around/ and I got 999 men knocking down my door….).” Other standouts include a Nas cameo on the remixed “A Woman’s Worth,” the floating and ethereal “Ali” soundtrack version of  “Fallin’” and live nuggets (“Light My Fire,” “Piano Mashup,” “I Got a Little Something”) that peel back the curtain on her early appeal and underscore how she’s developed since then as a pianist and performer.

The real Alicia-palooza fest is what’s found in “A Harlem Love Story,” the hour-long documentary that speaks to all of the (pardon the pun) key players in the evolution of this incredible artist, such as her mother, Clive Davis, Jeff Robinson and her childhood friends.  Alicia herself details her first inkling of wanting to perform, cultivating her talents, her nearly-catastrophic and career-killing era with Columbia Records and becoming an instant smash due to the belief of Clive Davis, the ambition of her team and her national exposure with a lip-synching Oprah Winfrey on the talk-show Queen’s center stage.

Alicia Keys is an established icon of her era, a humanitarian and a newlywed mother to an eight-month-old son, but her roots were firmly implanted with this collection of songs and all of the artistry and ambition she packed into them------it’s a worthy and wonderful addition to any of her fans’ music collections and is a hallmark to generations that follow: yes, you can be a star in your own right and on your own terms, and starting out …..Minor doesn’t mean you’re destined to stay that way. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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