Criticism | Alicia Keys makes one of the century’s biggest debuts with the timeless ‘Songs in A Minor’

Twenty years ago, one of the legends of music began an almost flawless career: Alicia Keys. During his debut in the music industry, “ Songs in A Minor, ” Keys showed he wasn’t kidding when it came to building competent narratives and dominating the mainstream scene, following the traces of other black women who had gained space in previous years – primarily The Destiny’s Child group, which dominated R&B. The 2001 debut of one of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time captured neo-soul with punchy force and passionate dissonance, demonstrating a powerful voice and critical and commercial success that brought it to life. topped the global charts – one of which debuted on the Billboard 200.

But what makes this album a classic? Alicia had been working early on her sound aesthetic since 1995, when she was only fourteen. After being rejected by Columbia Records, she signed with J Records and was able to show audiences her power. Blending genres such as gospel, jazz, blues and hip hop, the narrative scope has moved away from the usual romantic forays into an in-depth analysis of the complexity of relationships, generally placing it at the center of a perspective marked by trauma, abandonment and raging passions. More than that, Keys has demonstrated his instrumental versatility by handling the production of most tracks solidly through his classical piano training, in addition to signing many iterations on his own.

On her debut album, the performer showed she wasn’t kidding – and her need to prove she had achieved her goal, either by selling no less than 12 million copies since its release or by guaranteeing five statuettes. Grammy to lead singer. . Right away, with the brief and evocative introduction “Piano & I”, the artist shows listeners a mastery of the “cultured norms” of music, so to speak, while promoting a sensual and engaging anachronism. The cards are dealt – and she does not lose her hand on any of the following tracks. The upbeat and mysterious atmosphere of “Girlfriend”, which came out as the work’s last single, deserved more recognition than it gets and definitely incorporates one of the quintessential constructions of her career; the epic ‘Rock wit U’, which lasts more than five minutes, is a journey into rhapsody worthy of note and study – after all, how can you not be intrigued by the mixture of violin, piano and drums that goes up in the first few seconds?

Alicia Keys, more than one of the driving forces that gave way to multiple female acts in the years that followed, is, like Beyoncé, one of the icons of African-American culture in the United States. Spreading its references to the hip-hop counterculture of the mid-1970s, there is a convection movement that reclaims the genre and brings, as the Black Spades wanted ten years ago, empowerment hymns to the scenario in vogue, systematically dominated. by the whites. Keys, like it or not, has contributed to the segregationist deconstruction that has settled into continued growth, whether with the nostalgic soliloquies of “Lovin U”, which feeds on coral gospels and applauding vocal games that he treats with an enviable naturalness.

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The performer also doesn’t think twice before paying homage to his great idols, either with covers, or with extremely polite and well-organized mimetic inspirations (in fact, the entire album is a lesson in how to build a plot with a beginning, a middle and an end, without any obstacles). in the flowery exaggerations of the turn of the century). “How Come You Don’t Call Me” gets an interesting take in a fusion of past and present – and a memorable surrender that was hailed even by the original songwriter and singer, Prince. “He told me he heard the music and loved it […] It was truly an honor, ”she commented in an interview with the Toronto Sun in 2002.“ Jane Doe, ”in turn, brings a brief partnership with Kandu Burruss and enshrines the 1960s funk movement, the all edged with a timeless and contemporary that has aged very well these days (which is why it is also one of the highlights of the singer’s discography).

“Fallin ‘”, without a doubt, is the song we’ve all been waiting for. Decorated with several awards, including three Grammy Awards (Music of the Year, Best R&B Music and Best Female R&B Music), the track is the supreme of neo soul and one of the precursors of the future of the genre (including ‘legacy is seen especially in the early years (the decade of 2010). Keys’ debut single received a massive reception and, to this day, is considered one of the most successful songs of the turn of the century. The multiple layers of vocals spanning three and a half minutes are cautious and shy away from fleetingness, melting into a vibe that reminds us of both Aretha Franklin and James Brown, in chilling subtlety and a story about a love journey. spiral.

“Songs in A Minor” is one of the best premieres of the 21st century for several reasons (which have been explained throughout this text). Twenty years ago Alicia Keys started her journey on the right foot, armed with the originality of a character eager to leave her mark and who would complain about what was hers no matter how long it took.

Rating per track:

Piano & I – 5/5 Girlfriend – 4/5 How Come You Don’t Call Me – 4/5 Fallin ‘- 5/5 Troubles – 5/5 Rock wit U – 5/5 A Woman’s Worth – 5/5 Jane Doe – 5/5 Goodbye – 4.5 / 5 Life – 4.5 / 5 Mr. Man (with Jimmy Cozier) – 4.5 / 5 Never Felt This Way – 4.5 / 5 Butterflyz – 4/5 Why Do I Feel So Sad – 4/5 Caged Bird – 5/5 Lovin U – 5/5

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