Diva happens. Inevitably, Alicia Keys will soon transform into a TV-smashin', hotel-trashin', Bobby Brown-datin', hairdresser-beratin' whirlwind of diva-like excess and looniness. She'll make crappy records, too. But right now, it's Alicia's world; we're just playin' "Chopsticks" in it. Mixing streetwise hip-hop with classical piano soul was a great idea on someone's part, and Keys pounds, preens, and pontificates splendidly through Songs in A Minor, last year's gonzo-selling record that hath foisted Keys out on her own big-shot headlining tour.
Slicker, hipper cats (still) prefer Aaliyah. But while Keys is undoubtedly in big-bucks/corporate-megaproduct mode, she still milks golden moments from the overproduced neo-soul racket surrounding her. "A Woman's Worth" oozes girl power without kicking you in the groin with it. "Girlfriend" and "Fallin'" dish the kind of instant radio hits modern-day Michael Jackson wouldn't recognize if they, uh, kicked him in the groin.
But look to A Minor's second half for true Alicia insight, when all the producers go home and Keys unveils the "Never Felt This Way"/"Butterflyz" suite, a great lounge piano/vocal epic that ditches the hype and offers hope that our heroine will buck the trends and avoid the looniness. Hands off, Bobby Brown.
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