Is Alicia Keys's new album, The Element of Freedom, any good?
The Element of Freedom 2/5 What’s more frustrating about the album title The Element of Freedom: its meaninglessness or its false advertising? Eight years after a 20-year-old Alicia Keys burst into the world with a Grammy in her mouth, the soul siren purports to represent her true inner essence (as steered by a cabal of male hip-hop producers). We guess The Diary of Alicia Keys and As I Am didn’t do the trick.
What the album teaches us is that deep behind Keys’s chrysalis of fame and great skin lies a budding intern for a greeting-card company. Keys states – with a dreamy slow-jam devoted to each simple trope – that love is ‘strong,’ ‘blind,’ ‘like the sea’ and a ‘disease.’ She finds far more success and inspiration with her mattress, as proven by the stunning, laser-lit single ‘Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart’ and the very Prince-like ‘This Bed’.
Even with such meagre lyrics to chew on, her breathy, soothing voice captivates. Working with Jeff Bhasker, the studio dude manning Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak, Keys floats away from R&B into a soft grey haze of vaporous keyboards, dripping-icicle piano notes and muffled kick-drum thumps.