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The Element of Freedom (Deluxe Version)

Alicia Keys

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Album Review

Don’t mistake the presence of Jay-Z and Beyoncé on Alicia Keys' fourth album as evidence that the singer/songwriter is burrowing into modern R&B — take it instead as evidence of the rarefied company Keys keeps, her status as a superstar so solidified that the only cameos possible are R&B/hip-hop elite. Superstars are often given leeway to do anything they want, and so it is on The Element of Freedom, where Keys dials back the outward expansion of As I Am and turns inward, creating a clean, small-scale collection of ballads and Prince-inspired pop. Always apparent on Alicia’s albums, that Prince influence is underscored by how she’s swapped the retro-soul instrumentation of her earliest music for electronics, but she’s retained the warmth, the throwback sensibility, and especially a sense of reserve, never getting too heated or gauche. This does mean the Prince elements feel more NPG than Revolution, but Keys' trademark has always been an easy elegance. On The Element of Freedom, that elegance is so easy it borders on the sleepy, with Keys’ understatement undercutting livelier numbers — chief among them the bubbly Beyoncé duet “Put It in a Love Song” — so they play as ballads. This isn’t a complaint so much as a characteristic: her voice may crack on “Love Is My Disease,” but Keys never gets gritty; she remains reserved, never letting her singing or arrangements obscure the melodies or the classy veneer of the entire proceedings. All this determined detachment keeps The Element of Freedom from packing a primal, passionate punch, but there is charm in Alicia’s enveloping, quiet cool: she may never break a sweat, but she knows how to sustain a sultry, not necessarily sexy, mood, and she does so here quite fetchingly.

Customer Reviews

Means a Whole Lot

This album is one of my favourites of 2009, and definitely my favourite by Ms. Keys so far. I can't wait to see her in concert next year here in Birmingham (May 19th) after hearing this album. I've loved each of her previous efforts and she's definitely still my favourite female artist and I'm sure will be for years to come. Every song implants a feeling whether it be hope, hopelessness, happiness or sadness. The songs all flow seamlessly together and none seem out of place. It's gimmick free and simply contains genuine soul and is the purest R&B album I've heard since, I suppose, her last CD. For me she is the Lauryn Hill of today. Yes the album seems more commercial than her others but retains her trademark sounds, with the most "out there" track on the album being the duet with Beyoncé (who saw THAT coming?) but my God it works so well that I can't stop listening to it on full blast as soon as the beat kicks in. I honestly love every track and it's definitely an album that inspires you, it inspires me at least and that's all I need. Definitely means a lot. 5 stars. P.S. the videos are all fantastic too, great intimate performances. I'm happy to add this album to my collection.

Suprised by albums lack of sales

Very understated artist has beautiful voice dont understand how it didnt get to no 1 instead of the ' dream voice of subo' who is to be honest only selling due to loads of money on album and shock that someone looking like that could sing in tune and not being shallow i dont paticullarly care. Shows Cowels dominance in market also JLS got to no 1 against robbies new beaty of an album which is horrific as is this. But the albums beautiful great buy now lets see a rise in sales please as if RATM is real music then this is on another level.

Truly exceeded my expectations as always! Amazing!

Alicia Keys is an artist who always gets better and better everytime and is almost flawless. I think she is completely underrated in the UK and its such a shame and a bit of a joke too! She truly is an amazing artist! 'Empire State of Mind Part II' is just as good as the Jay-Z version, if not better, 'Put It In A Love Song' Featuring Beyonce is of course brilliant with a sick beat! All the songs are ones which you can't skip through, have to be listened to! I really hope this goes Top 10 because she deserves it so much!

Biography

Born: 25 January 1981 in New York, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

By mixing R&B with a sultry dose of neo-soul, Alicia Keys became an international star in 2001 with the release of her debut album. Songs in A Minor sold more than 50,000 copies during its first day of availability and eventually moved over ten million units worldwide, thus setting the stage for the 20-year-old's long career. Although she shared the charts with R&B contemporaries like Destiny's Child, Keys' talent distinguished her as a different sort of diva, one who played a variety of...
Full bio

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