We do like Alicia Keys. Hard to believe that her seminal Songs in A Minor is ten years old, but it wouldn’t be completely unfair to say that it still stands as Keys’ most laudable work. Every follow-up album has been progressively veering ever so slightly toward commercial pop, losing that soulful, piano-driven R&B edge that gave Keys her name to begin with. Who could forget the game-changing Fallin’, Girlfriend, Rock Wit U, or any other track from that album?
The problem with Girl on Fire is that it still doesn’t know what it’s sound wants to be. It opens with some classical piano, blending in with the ultimately bland (but typical Keys ‘woman power’ song) Brand New Me.
Songs pass by unremarkably. There’s a hint of dark R&B edge with Listen To Your Heart, followed perfectly by the stomping New Day, but then we’re back to the realms of mediocrity.
Only the exceptional 101 shows the traditional Alicia Keys blues style, the sort that sets her apart from any manufactured pop act out there right now. But sadly it’s also the sort that reminds us just how much more heart we deserve from an artiste of this calibre.
Disappointing, then. So much so that watching a girl literally writhing aflame might be more fun.