Alicia Keys’ fourth album The Element of Freedom soars into stores today. How did the songbird’s first album in two years fly with critics? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: What Keys’ often-banal lyrics lack, her quicksilver voice carries: bluesy and subterranean on the atmospheric opener, “Love Is Blind”; pure honeyed uplift on “Wait ‘Til You See My Smile,” and “That’s How Strong My Love Is”; ragged with longing on “Love Is My Disease,” a stirring semisequel to her ’07 smash “No One.” A-
USA Today: Though none of the tracks has the instant appeal of hits like “Fallin'” or “No One,” the songs are consistently strong and thematically cohesive. Freedom marks not so much a departure for Keys as it does the evolution of an artist still seeking higher ground. 3 out of 4
The New York Times: Even when she’s singing about losing it over a guy, as she does eight or nine times on the record, it comes across as the weakness of the mighty. Ms. Keys has enough presence of mind to reflect that love is a calculated risk, and can, given the right circumstances, produce greatness squared.
The Boston Globe: Channeling some of the space and intensity of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak (especially the thunderous drum loops), it’s not at all self-indulgent. There’s a sprinkling of sass from Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce, but never enough to supplant Keys’ own stamp on the music.
Los Angeles Times: After the all-too-human ups and downs she’s experienced through the rest of the album, ultimately she comes out of it sounding pretty, well, super. 3 out of 4
The Washington Post: Keys also teams with Beyoncé, the glittery Diana Ross to Keys’ super-serious poetry major, for the disc’s best track, “Put It in a Love Song.” “Love Song” is an oddly mechanical number that lurches from diva to diva but somehow doesn’t fall over; it’s flat-footed, but unlike the rest of Freedom, it’s also endearing.
Chicago Tribune: Keys takes few chances and rarely lets her guard down. But what she does, she does better than just about anyone: combining classic songcraft with hip-hop crunch. And—unlike her previous three studio albums—Freedom rarely sounds forced or gimmicky. It’s her most consistent album and also her most low-key. 3 out of 4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready),” “Love Is My Disease,” “Put It in a Love Song”