Alicia Keys - As I Am (2007)

Alicia Keys
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"Usually, I'm never at a loss for words. This time I feel somewhat lost. This year...how can I explain it? It has simultaneously been the best and worst of my life! This year, I know God took me, turned me around and forced me to look at myself in a mirror of reflection and everything I saw, everything I learned, everything I've yearned for and needed has been placed in these songs."

The previous quote was written by Grammy-Award-winning Alicia Keys as the opening to her long list of thank you's for the album As I Am. Sadly, in 2006, Alicia's closest family member, her grandmother, was diagnosed with cancer, and (with Alicia as her primary caretaker) later succumbed to the deadly disease. Eventually, Alicia returned to writing, producing and recording music for her latest effort entitled As I Am. It's a bittersweet compilation of songs from a woman who's unabashedly all grown up.

"Usually, I'm never at a loss for words. This time I feel somewhat lost. This year...how can I explain it? It has simultaneously been the best and worst of my life! This year, I know God took me, turned me around and forced me to look at myself in a mirror of reflection and everything I saw, everything I learned, everything I've yearned for and needed has been placed in these songs."

The previous quote was written by Grammy-Award-winning Alicia Keys as the opening to her long list of thank you's for the album As I Am. Sadly, in 2006, Alicia's closest family member, her grandmother, was diagnosed with cancer, and (with Alicia as her primary caretaker) later succumbed to the deadly disease. Eventually, Alicia returned to writing, producing and recording music for her latest effort entitled As I Am. It's a bittersweet compilation of songs from a woman who's unabashedly all grown up.

On the album's infectious lead single, "No One," there's something notably different about Alicia Keys this time around. Her voice is passionately heavier in tone than ever before. She even seems more confident now than ever before, which, in turn, has driven Alicia to involuntarily recreate her persona and sexuality.  This maturation is evident on every track, especially "Superwoman" and "Sure Looks Good to Me." Both songs challenge all women to take a deep look in the mirror and recognize the inherent beauty that lives within. The latter song was co-written by former 4 Non Blondes lead singer Linda Perry, who has written a number of incomparable hits such as Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." She is also responsible for signing James Blunt to a recording contract on her own imprint, Custard Records.

As I Am introduces Alicia Keys to a new market of adult alternative listeners with crossover cuts like "Lesson Learned" (featuring John Mayer) and "The Thing About Love" (also co-written by Linda Perry). Her core R&B/soul audience can rest-assured that Alicia has not given up her signature urban edge. "Go Ahead" (co-written by Marsha Ambrosius from the now-defunct Floetry) speaks about a love gone sour as a result of her man's incessant pack of lies. Alicia then reminisces about the way love used to be on the breakthrough track "Wreckless Love." The desperation in her voice helps to define the type of love felt when there's absolutely nothing to lose. It's simply fresh and intensely adventurous.

Finally, Alicia couldn't complete this album, As I Am, without creating something special for her Nana. It's likely one of the first songs she wrote for the album and chances are it was written before her grandmother's demise. On "Tell You Something (Nana's Reprise)," she sings "don't wanna wait to bring you flowers...waste another hour...let alone another day. I'm gonna tell you something...show you something...won't wait till it's too late." What a wonderful way to say I love you without ever officially mentioning those three distinct words.

By Akim Bryant

 
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