Alicia Keys has a lot on her mind on her sixth album, Here, which dropped on Friday (Nov. 4). From hard-hitting hip-hop tracks to stripped down acoustic ballads, Keys pulls no punches on the 16-track effort aimed at commenting on affairs of the heart, mind and soul. With a series of five interludes that capture spoken word poetry and in-studio chatter with some of her famous pals, the album dives deep when it comes to dissecting some of the urgent issues Keys sees around her.
The first shot across the bow is the powerful second track, “The Gospel,” on which Keys trades her typical powerhouse vocals for rapid-fire rhyming. “How we ever gon’ live/ If we ain’t gettin’ money how we feedin’ the kids?,” she raps. “It’s a revolving door, brothers be doin’ biz/ I know it sounds wrong but the dope’ll be what it is.” She’s back in her R&B diva mode on the rise-above-the-struggle pop gospel track about giving it all up “Pawn it All,” and unadorned on the acoustic guitar ballad “Kill Your Mama.”
“Is there any saving us?/ We’ve become so dangerous,” she asks. “Is there any changing us?/ Even for the sake of love?/ How you gonna kill your mama, when only mama’s gonna love you to the grave,” she croons on the Bob Marley-like ballad about undying maternal love. The global search and struggle for love comes through on the slow-burn “She Don’t Really Care 1 Luv” and Keys busts out some gritty blues wailing on “Illusion of Bliss.”
You’ve probably heard the bouncy “Blended Family (What You Do For Love)” with A$AP Rocky at this point, but you want to check out the haunting, spare “Work On It,” the dancehall groove of “Girl Can’t Be Herself” and the uplifting soul searching “More Than We Know.” The album also features “Where Do We Begin Now,” where Keys sings in an almost whisper over a booming heartbeat rhythm and finger snaps and the album-ending call to seek love above hate and division, “Holy War.”
Listen to the album here on iTunes.
The Voice coach celebrated the album’s release on Thursday night (Nov. 3) with the BET broadcast of her October Times Square show in New York featuring help from Jay Z, Q-Tip, Nas, Questlove and John Mayer.