/  12.15.2009

The Element of Freedom

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”


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