Album Review: “Girl On Fire”

2012 is a strong year for R&B, and even Alicia Keys earned her sixth straight number one on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums  with “Girl on Fire”.

The album’s success is not surprising if you take a look at some of the legendary producers and writers behind it. Saleem Remi, Babyface, Jamie xx, Emeli Sande, Darkchild, Jeff Bhasker, Gary Clark Jr.,Frank Ocean, Dr. Dre, Bruno Mars, among others.  I have been listening to this album all week and I have to respect Alicia for sticking to her soulful style when the music industry seems to be turning into a Pop-techno disaster.

“Girl On Fire” has a lot variety, each song has a different formula. Like in Key’s past albums she has combined old school R&B with modern R&B. I cannot stop listening to her first single, the title track that even makes Nicki Minaj sound good. The combination of hip-hop flare and piano soul makes it an instant hit.

The other high point on this album is “Brand New Me.” This song displays Alicia Key’s latest changes in her life like marriage and motherhood. This track is stripped down and features just Alicia and her piano. It really reminded me of her classics “No One” and “If I Ain’t Got You” but the lyrics prove she has since matured.

Another favorite of mine is “Tears Always Win” written by Bruno Mars. It’s an upbeat throwback to 50s pop-soul, not unlike some of Bruno’s own songs.  “That’s When I Knew” is a Babyface produced song with an acoustic R&B vibe. “When It’s All Over” is produced by remix artist Jamie xx and combines crazy beats with Alicia’s soulfulness.  “Listen To Your Heart” also combined Alicia’s typical sound with an upbeat track.  “One Thing” is Frank Ocean’s contribution. It is exactly what you would expect lyrically from Ocean turned into an emotional ballad.

There are negative comments that the album’s lyrics are lacking originality . I have to somewhat agree with that. However, I feel that Alicia Key’s powerful vocals and production make up for it.

The strongest songs, in my opinion, are “Brand New Me”, “One Thing”, “Girl On Fire”, “Tears Always Win”, and “101”. (7 out of 10 stars)