Review Roundup: Alicia Keys – ‘Girl on Fire’

Girl on Fire

It’s been three years since Alicia Keys released her last album. Since then, the 31-year-old singer has become a wife and mother, showcasing her newfound freedom and sound on her fifth album Girl on Fire, which she calls her best work yet. The Grammy winner reaches outside her usual collaborators, calling on Frank Ocean, Bruno Mars, Jamie xx, Emeli Sandé, Maxwell, and Nicki Minaj, who appears on the lead single.

Did Alicia spark a fire with critics? Find out below.

USA Today: Through her sometimes raspy vocals and intimate piano work, she conveys vulnerability and strength on such ballads as “Fire We Make” and “That’s When I Knew.” The passion in her songs seem to be an outgrowth of the passion she has for the music itself. 3.5/4

Rolling Stone: The result is both her catchiest and subtlest album yet—and one of the best R&B records of 2012. 4/5

Entertainment Weekly: When it comes to pure Juilliard-worthy talent, the ”brand new” Alicia Keys sounds a lot like the old one. But don’t be mad. That ain’t bad at all. B

Los Angeles Times: Girl on Fire basically delivers the same payload as Keys’ other albums; it’s a collection of handsomely crafted, gorgeously sung ballads interrupted by several overworked anthems about the value of perseverance. 2.5/4

The Washington Post: Girl sands down the edges of Keys’ nobility, but even at its most venomous, it doesn’t bite—it nibbles like an angry kitten. Its real pleasures lie in its subtle updating of her familiar, diaristic piano ballads, its incorporation of vaguely modern beats, and distinctive, martial percussion.

The Boston Globe: In line with R&B’s other great albums from this year (Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and The Weeknd’s Trilogy), Girl on Fire is almost underproduced. It’s over the top in the right moments, but mostly it’s minimal and lean, as if fully aware that the action rises and falls in Keys’ voice.

Chicago Tribune: Despite being hyped as her most “personal” album, Girl on Fire is really just more of the same… By far the album’s best track is one buried near the end, Ocean’s “One Thing,” a song rife with stark images and vulnerability. 2/4

The New York Times: It’s the tracks in which Ms. Keys seems to pay attention to a quieter story rather than building new pedestals for herself—that echo and smudge and smear sounds, that lead toward paradox—that suggest something new for her.

Newsday: Girl on Fire is arguably Keys’ best album yet, the kind of triumph that comes only when you’re not out to prove anything, when your potential turns into actual mastery of your craft. A-

The Associated Press: Girl on Fire feels organically fed with inspiration, from the drops of light of “Listen to Your Heart” to the weird urban sounds of “Tears Always Win” to the funky reggae riffs of “Limitless.” Keys is on fire, and burning all the competition.

Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Girl on Fire,” “Fire We Make,” “Tears Always Win,” “Not Even the King”

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40 Comments

  1. Ruthy

    Does Chicago Tribune ever rated an album 4 out of 4? It seems like every album they review is a 2 out of 4.

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  2. Morgan

    Agree with most of the reviews. I didn’t like “New Day” from the start and “Girl On Fire” just annoys me. But those are the only two tracks on the album that turned me off. The rest are beautiful, which is why I purchased this release.

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  3. J. V.

    Best tracks on this album:

    Brand New Me
    When It’s All Over
    Fire We Make
    Tears Always Win
    One Thing

    Love this CD!

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    Anita Reply:

    @J. V., Somehow did not receive mine today but still after listening online I would have to say my favorite tracks at this point, and that could change, are:

    Listen to Your Heart
    101 Don’t know why by it just gets to me
    Brand New Me
    De Novo Adagio (the intro)

    And all the rest! Alicia is amaing!

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  4. Aliciasahomewrecka

    Ha! Alicia a flop.

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    Zac Reply:

    @Aliciasahomewrecka, how can you gather that from these reviews? you would have to see the sale numbers to establish her being a ‘flop’. bye

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    dreamteam Reply:

    @Aliciasahomewrecka, Her albums number one dumbass its gonna put up good numbers. Alici Keys is one artist who will NEVER flop. Sorry Hater

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    BEDSTUYFLY Reply:

    @Aliciasahomewrecka, ARE YOU MAD? OR JUST BITTER?

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    Tasha Reply:

    @Aliciasahomewrecka, Yes she is a homewrecker! She was wrong for that with her acne face bitch! Her and sperminator go get what’s coming too them!

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  5. DRB

    It has some great songs but as a whole piece, I’m not feeling it. Plus, there’s no reason her voice should sound as damaged as it does.

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  6. janet

    Rap up you forgot my review!! 9/10 from me :) only thing I don’t like is nicki minajs verse and that random baby talking at the end of “when its all over” lol whose baby is that??

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    Curt Reply:

    @janet, um… it’s her baby.

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    oebie Reply:

    @janet, Seriously? Can’t stop laughing…random baby…

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  7. ladyrt23

    This new album is not her typical! I’m assumming that’s why others and myself have had an issue with it. It’s more jazz than r&b and that wasn’t expected. the same happened with Beyonce’s “4″. While being use to her trendy one line chants, she came very dramatic with the majority of the album. With that being said, “Girl on Fire” should be embraced. Listen to the lyrics!

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  8. Ice

    I found it pretty boring.

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    Superiority Reply:

    @Ice, Co-sign. This is actually her only album I’m not feeling.

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  9. dreamteam

    Chicago tribune obviously dont know wtf there talking about.

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  10. AudeeO

    album is the best she’s put out so far. Top 5 songs.
    !. When It’s All Over
    2. One Thing
    3. Fire We Make
    4. Tears Always Win
    5. 101

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  11. av

    Her worst album up to date. I don’t like it at all shame.

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  12. Trina

    I strongly dislike two songs on the album… but the rest is pretty good. Let’s be real, she will never be release ‘life of the party’ albums. Her albums are always great to zone out to, play in the background.

    Listen to: tracks 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.

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  13. Jay-Me

    I agree with most of the reviews. Definitely one of her best albums yet & one of 2012′s standouts. Very impressive, mature, brave work.

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  14. Audrey Hepburn

    Sonically, its a little confusing. There isn’t a cohesive sound or sense of sonic unity amongst the tracks.

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    Shenice Reply:

    @Audrey Hepburn, Audrey…
    ..girl..

    If you need a sense of sonic unity, turn on your local top 40 radio station..

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    Audrey Hepburn Reply:

    @Shenice, *sigh*

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  15. Gaite

    People are gassing her up because she’s ‘Ms. Alica Keys’ but honestly that album is so boring. As I previewed it yesterday I didn’t even let the songs finish. Shit I didn’t even finish pre-viewing it. I got annoyed at how blah it was. ‘Girl On Fire’ was the only one that was ok and thats only because my friends and I like to sing it for laughs since the lyrics are just so comical

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    Anita Reply:

    @Gaite, That is total nonsense. Go ahead and laugh it up with your friends while I enjoy listening to Alicia’s beautiful music. Maybe it’s just over your head a little. Generally the first time one listens to any album they’ve never heard it takes a few listens to get the feel of it. Didn’t you know that? Oh, I know it was so boring you just couldn’t. Well that’s alright, like I said it may be just a little much for you. Btw, GOF lyrics are not comical except to people who can’t understand music.

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  16. oebie

    I may be the only one, but I think The Element of Freedom was her best album. How it Feels to Fly, Love is my Disease, Unthinkable…my favorites. Oops different album :)

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    Kyle Reply:

    @oebie, I like all of her albums in a different way but “Element of Freedom” was unique in its own way. Some of the songs really stuck with me; especially the ones you listed.

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    chad Reply:

    @Kyle, i agree. the element of freedom was jus so colorful. girl on fire feels very black and white.

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    oebie Reply:

    @Kyle, Oh absolutely. Every album had its charm. For me, they were all growers including Girl on Fire, except The Element of Freedom. That one connected instantly with me. Don’t know what is was, but the whole era of ‘Element’ was perfect…Doesn’t Mean Anything was lyrically such a lovely song…and the bonus track Heaven’s Door…just wow.

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    Kyle Reply:

    @oebie, I feel that way with “As I Am.” I fell in love with that album instantly but I remember seeing reviews and people were not happy with it. I loved the lyrics and the melodies on some of the songs on that album.

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  17. Michelle

    The album is awesome, the only two songs that I don’t like are Girl on Fire and New Day, but I do understand them being on the Album, to those who complain about her album being different it is called evolution, artists must evolve, NO ONE wants to hear the same sound from an artist every single time, no REAL music lover that is. There are at minimum 8 solid songs on this album, when I say solid I mean timeless, 20 years from now they will still touch you. There may not be a whole lot of radio hits, but Alicia Keys has never really been a radio hits type artists, her albums are masterpieces that you continue to pull out and play long after the hoopla and the promotion goes away. I really think that you have to be in a certain space and a certain level of maturity to really appreciate her music on this album. I think in about 10 years 20 plus people will get it but that is ok because her music is timeless, so it doesn’t matter if you get it today or in 5 years. The ones that call it boring are probably infatuated with the popcorn pop music that is out now, this music is for grown folks, you don’t have to be popping your coochie to every song on an album, this is an album for TRUE music lovers, and it will sell very well. I say 500,000 the first week for sure and it will continue to stay on the charts because as she releases singles it will keep going back up the charts Sometimes I feel so sorry for these young folks these days, there level of expectation from an artist is so low and what they consider to be real music is fluff, so they call real music boring, and they call real singers screamers. It’s so sad, but history will tell a whole different story, especially for folks like Alicia Keys. If you have a true appreciation for music and you appreciate true musicianship, songwriting, and lyrical greatness, this album is a must, that is my review.

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  18. Michelle

    Oh and 1 more thing track 13 is the best lyrically written song I have heard in well over 10 years, it is so hauntingly beautiful and real, it is so raw and vunerable. It will definitely be a timeless piece.

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  19. YMCMINAJ

    This album was beautiful. I’m honestly impressed. It’s so strong and unique. Each track can stand on its own, but it flows almost perfectly.

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  20. Kyle

    This album is a grower. I really enjoy the simplicity of it. The songs are well written and she sings them with so much conviction. My favorites are “Listen To You Heart,” “Tears Always Win” and “101.” All the songs work in their own way. I didn’t like “New Day” and “Girl on Fire” at first but hearing them now makes me appreciate them a bit more because they fit in well with the rest of the album.

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  21. Asa

    Wasn’t able to pick it up yesterday, hopefully today. I didn’t like he first single, forgot it’s name, but Girl of Fire is great imo.

    So I’m looking forward to getting it.

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  22. Mick Knox

    Alicia keys Girl On Fire is a grower…bec ause you have to listen to the lyrics.The beats are not cnceatchy but that’s Alicia she’s always been jazzy. but to me this album does have a nice build up, and sequence to it. My favorites are; listen to your he art, brand new me, 101, at least i got to love you(with egypt), and of course the fire we make. I think from most it just needs a second listen because sonically its different from Element of freedom, but the again its supposed to be….

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  23. joe

    I’m an avid Alicia Keys fan and own and all her albums and I feel this is the best album from her to date, which is saying a lot considering the past work she’s put out. It has lots of soul and passion and sounds like real, old school R&B to me, not what’s being put out now by Usher, Beyonce, Trey Songz n the likes (who I’m not saying I don’t like). The album has a real good flow from track to track and the big thing I enjoy about this record is that it doesn’t seem to have any “filler” like I think her past albums which I’ve loved have had. My favorite tracks have to be: “When It’s All Over”, “Not Even The King”, “Girl On Fire”, and “Tears Always Win” but I really do like them all.

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  24. Pg

    The album is beautiful she is more vocal than ever, we should stop comparing past albums with current work, its called progress, evolution,growth how can u grow as person when ur looking back ? Thats the thing with ppl they cant embrace change they always fightin it. This album is great if wanna listen to great music get the album period! If u dont like her the keep ur opinion to urself cos it wont make a diffrence!

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  25. pour Boomz RearTue

    a fews of her song are Good

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