Photo Courtesy of alicia-keys.net
Alicia Keys has been a Girl on Fire since even before her 2012 album release. Not only does she sing, compose songs, act, and produce albums from her own Chelsea Studio where she records, but she also owns a feature film-television and theatrical production company, not to mention being a wife and mom. While we anticipate her next album, so far untitled, to be released early next year, Girl on Fire was her most elegant and sophisticated album yet by far. Inspired by her marriage to Swizz Beatz (the happy couple just recently celebrated their fourth anniversary), and the birth of her son Egypt (and are soon expecting another little bundle of joy), this collaborative album is the result of almost a dozen co-producers and upwards of 20 co-composers working with Keys. Read on for FDRMX’s track-by-track review of Girl on Fire.
1. “De Novo Adagio” – A short piano interlude pays homage to Keys’ classical training and opens the emotionally exploratory album. This is classic Keys.
2. “Brand New Me” – This piano driven tune finds Keys in collaboration with Emeli Sandé addressing a former lover, “It’s been a while / I’m not who I was before / You look surprised / Your words don’t burn me anymore.” This track carries the album’s theme; “I’m not expecting sorry / I’m too busy finding myself.” It was also considered the title track at one point.
3. “When It’s All Over” – Starting out as a low-key, funky ballad, this thick track segues into more of a soul sound on the choruses, thanks to Jamie XX. Also featured is Keys’ baby son Egypt, who preciously sings along at the end, prompted by his adoring mom.
4. “Listen To Your Heart” – With cool, futuristic soul rhythm and sounds, Keys sings smoothly, giving us the answer to the question, “Whatcha gonna do when he comes for you?” Collaborated with Rodney Jerkins.
5. “New Day” – Drumline style percussion introduces this pump-you-up chorale, and is a collab between Keys, her husband Swizz Beatz and Dr. Dre. The percussive beats hit hard throughout, while Keys hollers, “Party people say / Party people say / it’s a new day – ay ay ay ay.” Though the lyrics are perhaps not as emotionally deep as other tracks on the album, it is one of the few upbeat and positive songs, bringing light to the Girl On Fire.
6. “Girl On Fire” – Nicki Minaj opens this track with a catchy and inspiring rap. As the title track of the album, it is a triumphant ode to power women. Keys’ vocals are more confident and stronger than ever. “She’s just a girl and she’s on fire,” was taken from a line in a magazine profile written about Keys.
7. “Fire We Make” – Breathy, sensual and sultry, Keys’ smoldering vocals paired with Maxwell’s on this slow soul duet is you classic baby-makin-jam, possibly one of the only adult-themed songs she’s made. Also featured is a hazy rock guitar solo courtesy of Gary Clark Jr.
8. “Tears Always Win” – This ballad, in the vein of Stevie Wonder, builds up into a roaring anthem about how much she misses her man. Touring is hard, especially when you’ve got a husband and baby at home waiting for you. Collaborated with Bruno Mars, The Smeezingtons, and Bhasker.
9. “Not Even The King” – “Can’t afford what we got / Not even the king” is a bare-bones emotional number, just a girl and her piano opening with a sigh from Keys. Co-written by Emeli Sandé.
10. “That’s When I Knew” – This I’m-in-love-ballad is strung with acoustic guitar, and features heart-felt, powerful vocals by Keys, showcasing her amazing abilities as a singer. Co-written by Babyface.
11. “Limitedless” – An unexpected reggae-style song, this made-up-word-titled track is a frolicsome and peppy jam.
12. “One Thing” – Another slow, low-down ballad concerning being on the road, Keys softly sings of a relationship in the past, sorrowfully saying, “One thing that was made for us / Chasing us, saving us / I take one thing over anything / I take that thing over anybody.”
13. “101” -To close out Girl On Fire, 101 is the number Keys gives herself as the most recent person to fall for an ex’s games. Starting out slightly mournful with the piano in a minor key, the song leads into an unbeaten farewell full of chanted “Hallelujahs” and Bhasker’s firework-like beats. Keys bids us goodbye, assuring that her musical inferno will still be burning long after the album ends, and indeed it has.