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The Element of Freedom (Deluxe Version)

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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

Another Hit, I See You GIrl!

Alicia has done it again. As I Am was a brilliant album, and this one is beyond even my expectations. Alicia has come with a fresh new sound, while maintaining all of the elements that are classic Alicia. The Element of Freedom was like the ultimate story of my life. I definitely see her, and know that we will continue to hear great things from her. :D

Alicia Keys is like a fine wine.

I've always loved Alicia. Throughout her career, she delivers very quality albums. I was in love with As I Am about two years ago, but at the same time, i was concerned for her next album; how could she top As I Am's rich and powerful soulfulness? Well, The Element of Freedom delivers, and is packed with so much of Alicia's heart and soul, that I feel like I know her even better now. This album is so great because instead of her usual work echoing R&B/Soul of the 1960's and 1970's, she now channels R&B/Soul of the 1980's and 1990's. This new and exciting change of pace from Alicia really worked. Every song is climactic and full of beautiful melodies. You here her piano throughout the majority of the album which is great, the drums are intense and her voice is on point and so diverse. The production is on point and I love the new use of the electronic sounds and drums. It worked so well because they were not overpowering. This album is R&B at its finest. Thank god for Alicia Keys. Popular music today is very upsetting. I am glad to know that she can still be successful by being superbly talented, classy, and educated.

Like the title of the review says, Alicia Keys is like a fine wine. She only gets better with time. I can hear her growth on this album. She makes listening to music very personal again; not like the crap played all over the radio.
Pick up this album if you like quality, timeless music.
5 stars.

Recommended tracks: Wait Till They See My Smile, Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart, Un-thinkable (I'm Ready), Love Is My Disease, Put It In A Love Song, How It Feels To Fly, and Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down.

Great Album.

With The Element of Freedom, Alicia Keys puts out a different feel with this album from her precious three and it's great. When most artists change sounds like this it is not always a good thing, but with her talent and skill, Alicia Keys keeps putting out magic. Definatley one of the best of this year.


Born: January 25, 1981 in New York, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

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

Alicia Keys became an international star through her singular mix of classic and contemporary R&B. Behind the number one pop hit "Fallin," her debut album, Songs in A Minor, sold more than 50,000 copies during its first day of availability in 2001 and eventually moved over ten million units worldwide, thus setting the stage for the then-20-year-old's long career. She was just behind D'Angelo, and ahead of Norah Jones, as the second singer, songwriter, and keyboardist to top the Billboard 200 during...
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