This piece was originally published in The Gryphon in print and online, and can be found here.
After a long four year hiatus since her last studio album Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys has finally brought us Here. Matching the temperament of the Knowles sisters’ albums earlier this year, Keys has released something which matters whether you’re black, female or human.
It feels authentic from the moment you see the black and white cover art of Keys, seemingly nude, makeup-less, and with beautiful, untamed afro hair falling across her face. She wrote a letter earlier this year for Lenny Letter, where she wrote: “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts… Nothing.” This is Alicia Keys.
It’s a grown up album that she is at the heart of, with only one track featuring A$AP Rocky; the rest of the LP is all Keys’ powerful presence. She takes rewarding chances and begins Here with ‘Gospel’, a rap rather than Keys’ usual ballad-like vocals, and the diverse songs are intercepted with poetical spoken interludes.
Yet, with all the social and lyrical maturity, Keys is returning to her roots. The roots of her culture and New York living; the roots of where we’re all from- our mothers and the motherland in ‘Kill your mama’; and the roots of her music as she finishes with ‘In Common’, a relationship-focused and upbeat track that’s catchy, and reminiscent of the early 00s.
This reflection on times that have passed, and what is happening currently, is what makes Here an emotionally intelligent album. Female-empowering and stand out song ‘Girl Can’t Be Herself’ questions why we still make females feel like they can’t be who they are.
Alicia Keys is here, and whilst she is, we better listen.
By Lynsey Rose Kay