So after the negative backlash we were given for disliking Alicia Keys’ last single, we’ve decided to place our words slightly more carefully this time, however, if you disagree, then you disagree, don’t get your panties in a twist. So this time we have no features and we have time to concentrate on Alicia Keys herself; no distractions, just Alicia expressing herself. Let’s hope that this time around things work out a little better…
This song is pretty good actually, I connected with it really well. I think Alicia suits more stripped back instrumentals and when she doesn’t fall into cliches, her music is much more powerful. Having rappers and other vocalists as features is great if they are necessary to the music and not the product, her they weren’t necessary to either and I’m glad she didn’t tack them on this time. This is he best I’ve heard from her in a couple years and that does make me pretty chuffed; this style is beginning to bloom for her.
Production wise the track is a little weak however… The guitars tone, though natural, just keeps clicking for some reason; I know it’s purposeful but why, it doesn’t sound good? There were a couple bum notes played as well where the fret buzzed yet they’ve been left in… Why? Again I bet this is purposeful, but it just doesn’t sound nice nor does it add to your track. The vocals however are mixed pretty beautifully. They are left strong and dominant when needed, and they feel pure and raw throughout; that’s exactly what needed to happen. The pushing of her voice to the background in the chorus is a little odd, it’s different but I still can’t see the reason why. If there were gang vocals or harmonies then I’d understand, but here it just feels like they mixed instrumentation over her. The drums are mixed a little weirdly too. They have impact when they first come in, but the lack of depth makes them sound pretty thin by the end of each chorus. The bass, though sporadic, helps to add that low end but it still lacks a wholesome impact; strange production decisions throughout.
The musicality here is much better than what I expected. The guitar plays an interesting sequence and Alicia steals the show with her voice. In parts I felt my chest wavering as she busted out these powerful notes; this is the Alicia I want to hear. Each word is delivered with emotion and intensity, it really carried the track despite the minimalistic instrumentation. The sequences do tend to repeat themselves a lot and get a little dry by the end, but the song does enough to keep me occupied. However, where is the bridge? This is the exact same problem I had with her last track ‘Blended Family’, there is no bridge? I don’t mind there not being a bridge, but when you structure a song in this way, I’m going to expect one. It comes off as lazy if you do it halfheartedly and it’s actually annoying when you leave it out altogether like she did here. It meant the song didn’t build at all and hence reduced any chances of a climax; a song like this needs a climax.
Lyrically the song is very good. We’ve heard the whole love vs war thing a million times at this point, but I liked her spin on it. There were a couple really thought provoking sequences that I really enjoyed hearing; they left me pondering afterwards and that’s what they should do. Now I saw in the comments how people are comparing her to Bob Dylan and to that I say, woah, don’t get ahead of yourself. The lyrics here are strong, very strong, and they are in Blended Family too, but she tends to write about subjects that have been ploughed into the ground. I’d like to see her grab hold of a topic people don’t like hearing about, perhaps something more experience driven. I’d like to get to know Alicia Keys the person, not just the voice. She says and sings all the things you’d expect her to sing, but I’d to hear something a little more wild or different. But back onto the subject here, the lyrics are pretty solid throughout the whole track.
Overall then this track has definitely left me very conflicted. The subject matter is expressed well and Alicia’s voice is unreal in parts, but the production is so weird and bad, and the arrangement is so lazy and incomplete; it’s given me a real tough time. I mean I’m excited to hear what she does next, but then each time I feel slightly underwhelmed; it’s a tricky one.
6/10 – The song is good, but it lacks any replay value to me personally.