Revisiting Alicia Keys' 'Songs In A Minor'

There's a reason why we lauded Alicia Keys when her debut album Songs In A Minor dropped a little more than a decade ago. The young piano prodigy had the look of a new age starlet, Billie Holiday with a fedora and braids and on her 31st birthday, revisiting her classic debut album is a necessity.

Keys had vibrancy about her from the moment "Fallin" nestled its way onto Top 40 radio playlists and stayed there for the better part of two years. A James Brown sample wrapped around a thundering piano loop and one heart-wrenching tale of love gone in vertigo put her on comparisons with notable songstresses such as Aretha Franklin and others.

It was gospel-driven, almost in the same way Adele patterns most of her big records behind Southern style choral arrangements and a big booming voice.  You loved "Fallin", I loved "Fallin" and later on when Keys admitted she played the piano sometimes in the buff, I swooned.

The album, ripe with slow jams such as "Butterflyz" and duets like the sexy "Mr. Man" with Jimmy Cozier places Keys at the forefront of a few, a talented writer who meets the audience head on and unlike John Legend who loves his piano as well, can leave the instrument behind and create a riveting stage show.

Songs In A Minor pulled off the rare feat of making Keys not only a star overnight but one that sustained long-term viability even when her record label didn't. J Records was the flashy new label, the brainchild of exec Clive Davis that sadly bit the dust, scuttling the careers of Cozier who was a promising rookie himself. Keys stands as the leading woman of the label, its most successful artist and owner of a record five Grammy Awards from a debut album to prove it.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell