Alicia Keys’ sixth album, Here, is an unexpected masterwork. Quite unlike her previous release, Girl on Fire, it is an album infused with rhythm, creativity and purpose not heard since her earliest albums. And it’s also one of this year’s must-hear releases.
Here is an album about the stark divisions in society today, the struggle to make ends meet, and an encouragement for women to love themselves first. Keys doesn’t waste a second in getting straight to the point, awakening your mind with a short poetic passage that leads straight into rousing opener ‘The Gospel’. Bold piano chords give chase to marching drum beats, while Keys raps, clearly and intensely, about money, power, poverty and the “survival of the fittest”. It’s powerful stuff.
Albums with strong messages have been appearing month after month, thanks to the fraught times we are living in. What separates Keys’ album from equally impressive efforts by Solange, Common, Michael Kiwanuka, and others, is her ideas and her express of them. ‘Blended Family (feat. ASAP Rocky)’ is Keys’ tribute to her mixed race family – a subject that is a reality for millions of people, yet hardly ever spoken of in song and, rarer still, with such natural positivity.
Set to a backdrop of irresistible jazz, R&B and soul, Keys gives you songs about starting over (‘Pawn It All’), appearance pressures women and girls face (‘Girl Can’t Be Herself’), and making love, not war (‘Holy War’), with a care and compassion that is a genuine surprise. Here is a phenomenal album from this prolific piano-playing singer: intense, expressive and impactful, it should not be missed.
Here is out now on RCA Records.
Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @aarnlee.
Image: RCA Records/PR