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Alicia Keys: Overrated Or Underappreciated?


This year has been an interesting one for Alicia Keys. She has spent the majority of her musical career out of the grasp of ravenous gossipers, but this year brought much change on that front. Nevertheless, she remains one of the music industry's sought-after artists, has accumulated a plethora of fans, and can claim a blossoming start as an actress to boot. That being said, here at SoulBounce, we are most interested in the music. Guest blogger Steven G. Fullwood offers a critical look at this contemporary diva. While Steven's opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of every editor at SoulBounce, I can only speak for myself when I say that agree with him entirely. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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1. She sings.

Why people like it: Lowered expectations of a generation of listeners (fetuses to 30-somethings) grounded in a cultural experience that's about the tune and not the album; about the image, not the singing or the music; and most importantly, and sadly, about the individual and not a band of talented musicians. Think iTunes, not our tunes. Alicia's more Janet Jackson than India.Arie. She's an entertainer, not a distinctive singer/songwriter.

The truth is: She writes songs in "keys" that she struggles to reach and this strikes me as odd, given her clever name and all.
 
2. She plays the piano.

Why people like it: So few pop musicians play traditional instruments and even fewer Black folks (at least that's what we see in the popular media) and Hip-Hop (with the exception of The Roots) killed the DJ in favor of the MC, and is known more its craftsmanship, sampling and whatnot, than musicianship. And frankly it's easy to impress people who haven't seen a musician do her/his thing on the regular. The very absence of musical instruments in most musical videos adds fuel to this mystique.

The truth is: Alicia's piano skills do not wow, they simply support the straight-ahead, no surprises, pop music stuff she does. Nothing exciting, soul-stirring or even terribly interesting. Alicia's chords are average. To be honest I actually don't know what her skills are because her songs do not commonly foreground any semblance of innovative piano work. She might be amazing, but not from what's been released or when I have seen her live. Jump in a time machine and pit her against musicians of the 60s or 70s and at best, on a good day, you'd only see Alicia at her church's talent show.

3. She's attractive.

Why people like it: Too easy.

The truth: It all depends on who is looking and for what. Ask your momma. Light-skin never hurt nobody (particular Black folk), and neither did long, flowing (wow-it-came-out-her-HEAD-that-way) hair.

4. Context.

Why people like it: A woman at the piano. Dope stuff. Looks novel to people because most women in pop music traipse around the pop scene, often scantily clad and seem eager to get even more naked if necessary. See Beyonce, Rihanna and Mariah for details. Lady Gaga, in all her goofiness and far-flung ambition, can play some darn piany. Check her out on Youtube to see her play.

The truth: Alicia Keys is a mirage of a cool drink of water in a hot ass desert.

5. Because They Do. 

Why people like it: Because they do. For whatever reason. She sells gillions of records, and appears to be a nice person. I like hearing her give interviews more than listening to her music any day.

The obvious truth: My opinion is just that, mine. A few years back, I bought an Alicia Keys album (The Diary of Alicia Keys) while on holiday in London. I liked "You Don't Know My Name." Got back to the states and was like, wow, I guess I had too many lagers and blokes. Key's Diary is a neo-retro-oh-no-not-so-good-for-the-soul soul. For something more substantial, I turned to some smoking 70s, early 80s grooves (The Emotions, Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind & Fire, Al Green, Minnie Ripperton) and relaxed and realized I had been dreaming. Alicia's nod toward the past was cute, but it was Country Crock and not the butter I needed.

Much of the same goes for John (not-quite-the, but-maybe-someday-with-better-music-and-less posturing) Legend.

Steven G. Fullwood is the author of FUNNY (Vintage Entity Press, http://www.vepress.com) and an archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. He used to write "Sound Check," a music column at the now-defunct, Africana.com which was eaten by AOL Time Warner and then subsumed and destroyed by AOL Black Voices, an internet site for watery entertainment news featuring corny-ass music reviews for those who really don't value criticism, but love gossip.


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74 Responses

  1. Ouch!! Tell us how you really feel, Steven! "Country Crock, and not the butter I needed." LOL! Loving that tagline, by the way.

  2. Wow... This is totally what Ive said all along. You can ask anyone who knows me... but yet I get accused of hateration. Its not that. I simply dont see what the big deal is. "She's pretty and she plays the piano"... I think thats the big wow. Her voice has always annoyed me, and aside from a handful of tracks, Im very much indifferent about her.
    AND Ive always said that John Legend is simply the male version of her.
    Definitely overrated in my humble yet opinionated opinion 🙂

  3. Awesome post! I'm kinda a bit on the fence like that about Melanie Fiona, yeah what she did with The Roots is cool and all but when it comes to her actual songwriting and vocal distinctiveness I'm kinda "meh". I found The Bridge really formulaic...not drinkin' Haterade, just an opinion, already have gotten flack for it 🙂

  4. I so totally agree about Alicia & John very over-rated artist

  5. STANDING OVATION! I couldn't have said it better. I agree with each and every point. Nothing spectacular about her BUT she showed up on the scene in a time in music where there was no one like her to compete, and I only mean that in terms of her look (braids) and hook (piano). Clive saw the $$ and marketed the hell outta her where as true artistry was barely making the radio. Alicia became many people's idea of real music but for me falls way short. If I could tell you the number of jr. high school kids I listened to sing Fallin' for an audition I was in charge of, it would make you cringe.
    Oh and that Melanie Fiona..."or should I be a lady, cause I wanna have his baby." UGH! IT KILLS ME EVERYTIME I HEAR THE SONG! Sorry...music is too dear to me to have this foolishness be considered good.
    Be clear, I'm not hating on the success of these who are lucky enough to get in under the talent radar but I wish that the playing field was level for real singers to shine.
    I heart you Soulbounce! I'm a loyal fan!

  6. Alicia Keys has always been very overrated!! People are too caught up in her looks and her ability to play the piano. Her vocals are lackluster. Always have and will be!

  7. thanks for saying what i've been trying to say for the last few years.
    all of alicia's (and john's--except 'get lifted') albums do the same thing to me musically-- i really love them for the first two weeks, and then all of a sudden, i don't like them at all....
    she's a great talent (musically, NOT vocally), but something about her says she's trying to be this extreme hybrid of a adult-contemporary/pop singer and soul musician...and that just WON'T work. hopefully she figures it out... soon.
    (& i second geneva b's thoughts on melanie fiona. yep, meh.)

  8. Yeah. She's OK.

  9. After "As I Am" was released, I told myself that I would have to stop fooling with Alicia if her next alum was in the same vein. It looks like I will have to honor that commitment. I am, however, all for people doing well and surprising me, so maybe the singles from this effort are the worst songs on the album. Maybe she has some tricks up her sleeve (besides recruiting Beyonce to get some buzz).
    Generally, Alicia's music is becoming very boring and stale and sounds recycled. She should take lessons from Ms.Badu on how to evolve as an artist, instead of just repeating the same paint by numbers formula.

  10. hahaha. i have admit when i saw the tweet for this post, i assume you're position was going to be a glowing pro but this is actually on point. i have musician friends who told me from the get, years ago, that she wasn't anything special. of course the context of the conversation including comparing female singers to kim burrell. in that context, no one singing now is going to win but still the review on keys individually was that she wasn't special and couldn't hold a candle to some of the talents we knew personally behind the scenes who were often told by execs "they're not marketable." i'll leave that there.
    keys is average but in the end i do appreciate her attempts at musicianship. she's not doing anything that would blow my mind (example a song in 6/4 with nothing but her, an upright bass and drums. that would be interesting) but at least when i hear and see her i don't get the sense she's just trying to bank on looks, boobs, booty, hair and etc. i appreciate that about her. musically, i've yet to be impressed although some cuts are fun.
    now i'm off to listen to some avishai cohen. this post makes me hunger for some higher grade musicianship. hahaha.
    (forgive the typos)

  11. I have to echo the sentiments of some of my fellow commenters: I've been saying this all along about Ms. Keys.
    She is talented and has some good songs, but I've always felt that if you took away the packaging(braids, fully clothed); the piano; and Clive Davis' expert marketing skills: what would be left?
    I think she's been able to solidify her career b/c she was the 'anti-Beyonce': articulate, not trying to get by on looks, writes own songs, etc. Basically everything everyone thought Beyonce was not.
    But she's crossed over to the ranks of 'franchise player' now. She'll be around for a long, long time.

  12. At first I thought I was the only person that felt this way. Good to know that I am not alone... Alicia Keys is waaay overrated. Her voice has some moments but thats rare..Her last two singles reaching the top ten baffled me...The single out now is an exact replica of her hit single NO ONE. Just goes to show you what the talent pool is like in regards to good soul music. Stars are being made out of mediocrity. Like you wrote in ur post Probably cause todays listener's expections are extremely low....

  13. hmmm...interesting opinions.
    As a fan of her music, I will honestly say she's a combo of both.
    Keys came out in the era where soul was making a "comeback". The era of Arie, Scott, Musiq, Sunshine Anderson, Maxwell came back out etc... so of everyone of that era, even though she was a tomboy (braids, hats, deep voice), she was the most visual appealing one, non threatening. Her intrigue came from the fact that she is a female with a mysterious ethnicity at the time ("what is she? she black? hispanic? oooh MIXED?"...) can hold a note and can play the piano. Pop outlets deemed her as a friendly hybrid of hip hop, pop, and soul. Her "edge" made her hip hop; not being so deep or "over the head" like a Jill or India made her soul friendly; and her songs were catchy = pop. Although I did enjoy, "Songs in A Minor", I hoped "Acoustic Soul" got the same or more praise because vocally and writing wise, it was stronger. She also had a major label and the "devil", Clive backing her. lol
    "Songs.." and "Diary..." are actually two albums I enjoyed thoroughly. She may not have the writing or vocal strength of your favorite soul artist, but she has some strong non radio songs on both albums, from "Troubles" to "Samsonite Man." I'd give it up for any female that's trying to be positive, and don't make a living being naked and writing club songs all the time. She arranges, writes, produces, mutli-instrumentalist (seen her also play guitar/bass in concert) and sings. That IS fascinating for todays standards to be a female artist. Especially when you have to search high and very low for good, and sh.t is handed to you freely and daily. lol
    A.Keys is one of those artist that's caught in the middle. In a sea full of twentysomething artist that come out, very attractive, but can't sing, and for damn sure can't write or play anything, she's that breath of fresh air. She's deeper than most pop artist out there. A lot of undereground soul fans box themselves in and only listen to artist who are not so known or appreciated Some of those people deem her as overrated simply because she's known. Won't give her an honest listen because she's a name brand now.Or you may simply prefer something a tad bit more soulful and deeper that you can't find in Keys. I know I have to listen to other people to REALLY feed my soul too.
    Nah, I would NEVER put her in the realm of a Stevie, Marvin, Smokey Minnie, or even the Roots, but I do appreciate her attempt to go that route than "ooh, look at my pretty face and a.s."
    oh yeah agrees about Melanie Fiona. I REALLY tried to like her but err..uhh..nah. Just doesn't move me.

  14. Man, this is on point. I've been telling my wife the same thing since A. Keys has been out, but I actually think she's more talented than her music shows. Her first album was by far her best to me. After that, she went to the pop tart charts and has never came back.

  15. My question is this: Who thought she was anything other than a pop performer?
    She'd been sitting in reserves for a while and had a few false starts with some standard pop r&b offerings before Davis/J Records pushed her into the limelight via that well-timed appearance on Oprah. While she is talented, it was obvious even back then that her trajectory wasn’t predicated on her innovation as a singer/songwriter nor her virtuosity as a pianist. It’s been about her ability to function as a musical bridge between Lauryn and Beyoncé and the malleability of her physical appearance as such. She’s only overrated if you fell for the rouse to begin with-- a testament to its complete success.

  16. Actually I agree with most of this and some of the commentors...even though I do like Alicia Keys, but since "As I Am" dropped, I've been feeling Alicia is kind of, pardon me, half-assing her material, like she builds you up to something wonderful and then peters out and things become okey-dokey. Like a comedian who dances around and never gets to the punchline and by the time it's told, the "so what was the point?" occurs.
    She's a great performer, as I was rejuvenated when watching the performance she put out on YouTube earlier this week for the AIDS awareness concert, and I think she may work better in that context not as a flashy arena entertainer with props, gimmicks et al.
    Now "The Diary of Alicia Keys" will always, to me, be her finest effort and she is having trouble topping that album and her debut. Nothing like that was rotating in the mainstream market in 2003 like 'Diary', and now with more artists doing it and doing it better, Alicia is struggling. She may find herself evolving but it's taking her longer than what people expect and we're just getting bored now.

  17. I don't know why Soulbounce is so upset with Alicia. ANYONE who has followed her music and appreciates her can tell you that they do NOT think of ANY of the things written in this article. Alicia's music takes me to a different place. The total package. It has nothing to do with her being a light skinned black girl or that she is pretty. It is about the MUSIC.
    And the music is excellent.
    Did she refuse an interview with Soulbounce or something lol
    Keep on supporting the train wreck that is about to be "Stronger withEach Tear" however.

  18. i hear you - I don't think Keys' album efforts have been that solid (except her debut, which was pretty damn good), but we're in 2009 - we need to stop looking at the 60s/70s because those days are gone. Soul/R&B peaked in those years - we've moved on.
    If we compare everything to the greats, we'd like nothing.
    I think we're getting old. That's the problem lol.

  19. I agree with kindafamous, and the entire sentiment of John Legend. I haven't liked his stuff since Get Lifted, and while I do like a song here and there from As I Am, I haven't dug A. Keys since Diary--which I LOVED. I don't wanna call the girl overrated, but I totally understand why others do.

  20. I haven't care for or purchased anything since "The Diary of Alicia Keys." Im not sure that she is overrated but there is a lot of hype, however, I feel that she lives up to the hype when performing live.

  21. i could sit here and tell you how foolish and semi-biased you sound, but im not up for writing an essay.
    i will say that Alicia Keys gets regarded in those ways you seem to be sort of against because she is talented (as you already know) in each of those areas and her music DOES recall past eras, but its updated and splashed with hip-hop and pop sensibilities. when have you heard youre faves combine these elements and get her same results? i'll wait... until then, know this-
    numbers, accolades and acclaim dont lie. ask your past legends about her...

  22. If this were Jepordary, the question would read as such:
    Which two R&B artists did better work in the beginning of their careers only to devolve into mediocre "music"?
    Jeporday Answer: Alicia Keyes and John Legend
    I have to co-sign on many of the comments noted under this blog entry. Don't get me wrong, overall, I do like them as artists, but I don't love them the way I love a Jill Scott, Ledisi, Maxwell, India.Aire, Gordon Chambers et al...
    I have to say, I was very disappointed in Ms. Keyes third and upcoming CD. It feels like it's just...missing something. This sounds like music that can be performed by anyone and just sounds very generic. The scary thing is that when Alicia was doing the promotion of the 3rd CD, she said in several interviews that this was her most personal CD and a true reflection of her. I hope that's not the case.
    The same thing with the last musical efforts of J. Legend. In listening to it, it came across as very waterdowned R&B, accompanied by the MTV/VH1 friendly videos that were played in way to high rotation.
    About a month ago, I was coversing with my brother, and one of her recent videos came on; we both shook our heads in slight dissapointment. Unllike him, I said the quiet part out loud, "Her real estate value has gone down some."
    He could only nod his head in agreement.

  23. I agree with everything that was pointed out in this posting.
    I like Alicia Keys, but I haven't been "wowed" by her since she arrived on the scene.
    All I have to add is if Clive Davis backs you, I believe it will be a matter of time before your sound gets watered down.

  24. Avatar

    In case I can't finish reading be4 it's time to leave work:
    The truth is: She writes songs in "keys" that she struggles to reach and this strikes me as odd, given her clever name and all.
    Glad I'm not the only one who ever wondered that...

  25. WOW! The funny thing is I was just thinking about this. I like so many things about Alicia Keys' persona, and I even liked things about Diary, but I have a question:
    What do Alicia Keys and Mo'Nique have in common?
    They both will not stop yelling.
    (this is a joke btw-- AKeys stans don't take it to heart)

  26. It's kind of odd to see this kind of article because I've felt this way about her since I was informed of her existence. This not to say that I dislike her or think she's totally wack. To me, Alicia Keys is like a subway train at 3 am: I keep thinking I see its light in the tunnel but it never seems to show up. :O(

  27. She is definitely not overrated. She doesn't do the same stuff over and over again, she is not everywhere like all those pop and mainstream artists, she composes, produce, she's 100% involved in her music. She writes her stuff, she does the arrangements.
    As I Am is indeed less soulful than DOAK but does it make her less good? I don't think so, Alicia is evolving, embracing all the things that influences her. I believe she does make music for the 'big public' but she still manages to have that deep and special touch that moves people.
    There are not a lot of artists like her in the game right now, but watch she's still really genuine at what she does, she won't always do the easiest thing, she surprises us!
    I won't go any further, guess you got my point, don't be too harsh on people that keeps music alive.
    🙂
    oh and "Love is blind" is incredibile ;P

  28. *read the comment i made earlier*

  29. i think she has a lot of potential, but she seems to try to copy other artists... a lot of her songs are re-makes & a lot of her original work seems to be getting rehashed in her "new" stuff. i'd hate to say she mediocre when i don't have her talent, but HEY... if you're gonna be about the business ya gotta have substance & push your skill level. i don't wanna see her go away, i just want her to do some fine tuning & address more conscious issues in her lyrics.

  30. She's not my fave, but I like her, I appreciate her musicality and she always seems to blow me away when I see her perform live. It's not that she's a great singer, but she's genuine, authentic, and when she performs she pulls me into her world. SOOO many other so called artists come across as fake, wanna bees, carbon copies, and cookie cutter. Eventhough, she posesses some traits of past artist, she does the music she wants to do! I loved Diary, and a couple of other songs.
    I think comparing any artist to another is a waste. What would this musical lanscape sound like if everyone sounded the same? O yeah that already pretty much happens with Hip Hop. As much as I love Maxwell if everyone souned like him, it would be some nice sounds but boring, variety is the spice of life! So stop comparing her to the greats of the past, she just doing her thang presently and doing it well!

  31. I think most people respect her for all the reasons you listed, and because at the time of her arrival, she was refreshing. She had the piano, she was belting "Fallin'" when hip-hop had almost ruled R&B out. On the same hand she's marketable, and that IS A PLUS. I am a fan and think she's great; and while I don't necessarily agree, I can see your points. I actually never thought about it before. Thanks for the insight. And GaGa is a beast on the Keys.

  32. Meh, I have my own thoughts about Ms. Keys, but I wish people would stop acting like Janet Jackson doesn't have her own distinctive presence as a singer and a songwriter just because she doesn't fit the predictable cookie cutter neo-soul/credible black mold of one. Sheesh.-QH

  33. I use to be her biggest fan but the while creeping thing with Swizz beats and part taking in the break up of a marriage has left a sour taste in my mouth. I'm no longer buying her music but I will always bang "you dont know my name:)

  34. Must say I've always felt this way about Alicia Keys especially point 1.

  35. Knew someone was going to bring up the homewrecker talk, smh
    But in on the serious side, while she is keeping music alive, she hasn't made a decent album since SIAM and DOAK. As I am was a hit and miss IMO and her Unplugged (like As I am) album sounded like she was just one album or song away from losing her voice.
    Although I like her for her efforts, and she may not have the greatest voice as many of our other favorites, can't know her hustle, although she seems like she is getting pushed and overhyped by the Clive Davis machine and other artists may be suffering due to that. (Not her fault though).
    This will probably be the last album to check out from her. Her sound is getting more predictible then redundant (some will say boring). She should take some time to evolve musically (and take care of her voice) and get her personal relationship life in order.

  36. Meant "can't knock her hustle."

  37. Wow.
    Damn, here I was thinking that she actually made beautiful music. She may not do anything great but she does everything good enough.... and way better than most out there today. if you listen to the words in her music you would know the talent she has and the time she puts into her writing. Because she doesn't sound like Minnie Riperton or rocks an afro, baldy, or locs is no reason to say she's talentless. Maybe you should leave your lane and listen to popular radio to truly appreciate her lane and the monotony she breaks in that arena. At least she isn't singing about "inventing sex" and "sex magic..." or whatever the hell Keri/Kellz/Songz screamin' bout. Just because you listen to artists that haven't broken in the mainstream doesn't make you righteous or have valid insight on a singer's success or lack of.

  38. Oh come on! OMG! U GUYS ARE TOO PICKY. Yes, Alicia Keys is no Stevie Wonder. Just like Stevie Wonder is no Duke Ellington. PEOPLE STOP COMPARING ARTISTS TO WHEN SOUL REACHED ITS PEAK. IT'S LIKE COMPARING EVERY ARTISTS TO MICHAEL JACKSON. YOU CAN'T HOLD SOMEONE TO SUCH GREATNESS!
    Yes, Alicia's vocals aren't as strong as when she started, but she''s better than Rihanna. Alicia is a true artists. She sings from her heart, which is rarity these days. I'm sorry but Jill Scott and India Aries are not "revolutionary." Its good music, but it's not advancing the genre of music. Alicia is pushing the genre of soul in her own direction. DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME BASHING A TRUE ARTIST!

  39. ...oh, and is beauty now a curse? Are we now truly questioning Janet's talent now? (Janet is 10X more talented then some of these artists out now.)

  40. ...oh, and is beauty now a curse? Are we now truly questioning Janet's talent now? (Janet is 10X more talented then some of these artists out now.)

  41. Well I love her music and songwriting; I've seen her live in concert and she's a great performer. Her first album was the soundtrack to my high school years. I know people think she's overrated but hey, we all have different opinions. The author seems to feel that you are either an "artist/musician" or "entertainer"; I think you can be both; Are you telling me Parliament/Funkadelic weren't entertainers???? I think of A.Keys as more of an artists than entertainer but I do believe she is both

  42. Alicia is a true talent and her music isn't of the chickenhead variety like her counterpart Beyonce.

  43. I agree totally. Part of the problem with today's current crop of musicians and entertainers is EVERYTHING has been dumb ed down. Music has been taken out of most schools curriculum and kids are not exposed to other music styles through basic field trips.
    The artist aren't polished, the songs are rough, and everything is about what you look like, which results to a large body of mediocre musicians/entertainers.
    I for one am not amused nor entertained by the current crop of artist/musicians vulgar display of stage humping on most concert venues. Does it enhance the experience to know that you-the artist- are into oral sex?
    These shenanigans are only a muse to distract one from the obvious...the general lack of musicianship.
    I too thought of some of her earlier work as refreshing...but on one song in particular I just could not get past the awkward syntax. I'm no English major but back in the day Barry would have polished that sucker before it was ever released.."Hallo".
    Ross was also from the projects...but at this point Keyes is no Ross and JayZ ain't Barry.
    But most folks would counter at least "they gettin' paid," which is today's mantra.
    This current crop of entertainers/audiece all share that "dead eyed" look....maybe that's why there is this insatiable need to shock or produce more dribble.

  44. I like Alicia Keys and realized from Jump street that she was a Pop artist and not a pure R&B artist. There is some true in the premise of this article but at the same time, it disturbs me when we as black people tear each other down like this. I like India.Aire, Jill Scott, MJB, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, etc. as much as I like Whitney Houston (this same type of discussion went on when she first came out too...she sings those pop songs, etc.) and Alicia Keys. Why do we as black people have to insult artist who are at least trying to make music with some meaning...I never hear this type of discussion when it comes to white artists (yeah I said it) sometimes I just don't get it...sometimes we are our own worst enemy...but everyone has an opinion...

  45. Whites do critique "their " musicians/artist...Starting well before Elvis. Whites folk have shows that critique and warn parents about which music to buy and concerts to avoid. Madonna was and is viewed as anti Christian and Brittany as oversexed years before her marriage and break down.
    Why should Black folks be forced to support an entertainer just because they are Black?

  46. Yes, white people have criticized artists like Madonna, Britney, Miley Cyprus, etc. but the way we do it still makes me very uncomfortable. I’m not saying that we should support an artist just because they are black (there have been many artist we have not supported because they are black, i.e. Darius Rucker, Living Colour, Lenny Kraviz, etc.- I personally love all of these artists for various reasons besides them being black) Early on in Whitney Houston’s career, black folks were not really feeling Whitney because she was too pop for them even though she could SING (i.e. How Will I know, So Emotional). People still criticize MJB to this day and she has grown as an artist and singer. If you dig a person’s music support them and if you don’t, don’t buy the music. Simple as that. I bet a lot of folks don’t realize Alicia Keys is a classically trained pianist. Alicia Keys isn’t Ledisi, Regina Belle, Phyllis Hyman, Anita Baker, Miki Howard, etc. but she can sing rings around lesser singers. She has her niche and she works that lane.

  47. Woah. This post done blew up since yesterday, lol. I agree with the Mr. Fulwood. Alicia's talented but just OK. I liked her first and second albums. The last album really let me down. Not really checking for the new one but I have heard a couple of leaked songs that I like. But she'll be around longer because she's riding that Clive & Co. train.

  48. I remember waaaay back in the day Oprah featured three upcoming artists (all with her patented "fake knowing the words when on camera" routine -- for shame, Ms. WInfrey). The singers were India Aire, Jill Scott and Alicia Keys. And I *knew* that Alicia would probably be the one with most return appearances for reasons that had little to do with her talent and more with her photogenic appeal.
    That's the general public's loss. Pretty ftw!
    I know the Soulbouncers still love the Jilly and India, but none get mad press in general media like Alicia. Note the free youtube concert for AIDS awareness last sunday. A high-profile gig for a great cause? Sure! But entertaining? Hell NO.
    That's the part that annoys the most. The litmus test for me re:genuine SoulBounce-abilty? Live performance. Alicia does not connect at all from the stage. She doesn't inhabit or elevate her songs in concert, her between song banter feels panifully rehearsed, she should not try choreographed dance moves at all. I'm not asking her to be Beyonce, or Jill, but the niche she's carving between the two she doesn't even occupy all that well, imho.

  49. I love Alicia Keys, and I am also tired of the whole comparing music to the old greats. Great music is great music and it will stand the test of time. Alicia hasn't even been out for a decade yet and is still finding her niche. I have also seen her twice live and she is mesmerizing.
    I like all of her albums but I was so mad that "Songs in A Minor" got all of the props in 2001. If we are talking about the definitive pop/soul album of 2001 it was Aaliyah's "Aaliyah" and I was on that prior to her death. I've always felt like there was a lot of alicia hating on sb as well.
    Another reason Alicia blew up is because of Clive Davis. I'm not saying ethnicity/race had nothing to do with it, but throw the Clive-Machine behind any diva and they have a leg up as far as publicity over anyone else. Not to mention, "Fallin" was a great first single.

  50. Well, what can I say. It must b the truth

  51. Apparently, Divo loves Alicia Keyes.
    She's far from rubbish. Well, apart form No One. That irritated like sand fly bites.
    What bugs me about her is the piano thing. Maybe it's down to her 'people' but give it a rest. It's like Flavor Flav used to wear big old clocks. Now Alicia needs a grand piano in every video she does. We all know she can play a bit. It doesn't need to crop up in every damn video she does.
    Talking of which, I'd agree on the over-rated nature of her key skills. I remember when John Legend was just making it on the big stage. One of his past piano playing credits included an Alicia Keys album. Made me wonder.
    And John Legend plays the the piano and he doesn't have to play one in every one of his videos.

  52. WOW!! It really saddens me why people always try to disect and break some thing or some one down to bare nothings. She may have her flaws but if you are a person of wisdom you know nothing is perfect. She is not bringing anyone or anything down with what she does so why are the people trying to hurt her. I appreciate her as a artist and i enjoy watching her and listening to her grow and develope into the artist that she is. I feel she is under appreciated as a person and performer. Im glad when in looking at her in videos i dont see a naked booty, hoochie bouncing around the set using her acets instead of her inner beauty work for her.

  53. Steven, my brotha I have to agree with you on all points. I always thought Alicia was aright but I never found anything particularly special about her as a singer, musician or performer.
    Average songwriter, average singer, average performer, average musician (her piano skills are LACKING).
    I bought her first album and never bothered to buy another. I have listen to her albums online but was never compelled to actually lay down my dollars for her music again after being utterly disappointed by her first effort.
    I think #3 has more to do with her success than her talent because I always felt India was a more talented songwriter and a much more engaging performer. India's freshman effort was better written, produced and executed. It is still in rotation in my CD changer and my IPod.
    As for any comparison to Miss Jill, no one should even try; hell Alicia needs to take some serious notes.
    I am not saying Alicia is totally without talent but she has been at this for almost a decade and I don't see any progression or evolution as an artist (see Marvin, Maxwell).
    Oh, you are straight up right about John Legend, he is so the underachiever. He wants to be all things to all people which does not make for a coherent or cohesive sound. I still haven't forgiven him for "Evolver", no authenticity or sincerity to be found on that album. I just hope he can find himself and give us the music I think he is capable of producing.

  54. She's most definitely underappreciated. Any one that has every been in the audience of one of her concerts will agree that she is a superb performer. I don't get why it needs to be questioned. She's beautiful inside and out and often misunderstood like a lot of us. If you're so busy trying to listen to how good she plays the piano, you actually miss out on the words in the song. I think (or perhaps I speaking for myself) that the songs are liked mostly because they are relatable. The things she sings about we've all experienced at some point in our lives and this is why she is loved so much. As you pointed out, it doesn't hurt that she is hella beautiful physically but I wish that people wouldn't always go looking for something to be broken in everything and everyone. Let's just lay in the cut or roll in the parts we do like. I think we've gotten out of control with finding the negative in everything and everyone and why this freaking world is no bitter and angry about just about everything. I love Alicia Keys as an artist not a pianist however she plays a hell of a lot better than most folks I know but being a good ass piano player doesn't sell songs. It's the emotions you get when you hear it and that to me is what's most important. With that said, Alicia you continue doing you and you'll always have people like me loving you for all that fine ass music and passion you put into every performance or song. Simply songs you say, well I say simply put, those simply songs are the ones we simply love so much. They're easy to sing along and to understand.
    Love you ALICIA.

  55. While I do think Alicia's artistry is a tad bit over-rated, you (Stephen) make her sound like she's Britney Spears. The woman writes her own music and can actually sing; that's a far contrast from many artist out right now. That being said, I can't believe I'm defending Alicia lol! And word to the John Legend comment, I could never get into his stuff.

  56. She is mos def underappreciated ... not by the mainstream music industry but by us black folks who like real music. WHY? Well because she is mainstream. For some reason we like real artists to stay underground so we can keep them for ourselves. As soon as they get Grammys then we start not liking them. But back to the debate. Alicia Keys is definitely one of the best female artists in R&B at the moment, she shows our daughters, nieces and lil sisters that there's more than showing your a*** , getting beaten up and partying all night to be famous. She is a real artist with real music talent and like you said she is a musician. She has a way of sampling the greats and making it her own. Now "The Diary of Alicia Keys" was as far as I am oncerned probably the most mediocre album in her discgraphy but listen to songs like "Troubles", "Superwoman", "I need you" and you can't deny the talent.And it's not actually those songs that get realeased, because they're not "poppy" enough but it's those songs who make her a great artist . Long live the career of Alicia Keys!

  57. Oh yes... and I forgot ... You are right about John Legend... he on the other hand is real s***t

  58. What we seem to forget, is that all the greats were responsible for their own career, good or bad. With todays artist they are packaged. Alicia's first album showed promise, but as her sales increased so did the pressure to fit the marketplace. To criticize this young woman until she has control of her career is foolish. The same man who managed Whitney now manages Alicia. She has more talent than what she shows, hopefully one day we will see the full extent.

  59. I agree that Alicia is a pop performer
    there is a reason why "Soul Songs in A Minor" was changed to "Songs in a Minor" -just sayin'
    I find Alicia to be bland to be honest -while I do think she is talented, I feel like most of her work minus a few singles is just recycled it's boring -already on this new album“Doesn't Mean Anything” is just another version of “If I Ain't Got You” just one example of many Yawn.
    I found it interesting how “Diary” and “As I am” were supposed to give the listener an intimate sense of who Alicia is, but I never really got a sense of who she was/is from either album... at least not in a way that left a meaningful impression, cause I keeping expecting more or just looking for something that maybe isn't necessarily there... my mistake -oh well

  60. I don't know. I agree and disagree with this article (great piece, btw.. I love stuff like this that provokes intelligent debate).
    She is talented. Not the strongest singer but I admire that she is a musician, intelligent and is relying on other things other than her looks (despite the fact that they actually help her).
    However, I did not like "I Am". I thought it was a great departure and not a good one. I loved the joint with John Mayer (btw, can we a get a post on Mr. Mayer.. ignoring his hollywood adventures.. dude has got soul) and "I Need You".
    Her first 2 albums, especially her first, were really good. They showed someone who was here for the music. Which is something, that is important because folks like Beyonce cannot convince me they are here to give good music but rather to sell many albums.
    I find this article also an indication of the high expectations on her. Or maybe, the low expectations that have been in the standard in the music industry.
    There are some folks out today that make me wonder how they heck they got a record deal. At least Beyonce can sing and perform her butt off. And Gaga is OUT THERE - Madonna style. But there is too much mediocrity on the radio. One does not even have to long for the 60s and 70s. Heck, I am longing for the 90s when Boyz II Mean ruled. I am longing for a time when real talent was celebrated and not forcing the likes of Mariah to bend backwards to fit in.

  61. Thank you!!! I am villified.

  62. I cringed to think the critique would favor Alicia. Imagine my utter joy when I realized it was a genuine analysis. Herein lies the problem...she was thrust into the spotlight by Mr Davis on the Oprah show so we all thought she must be good. 1st album was a'ight but it's kinda like misplaced hope for a high school football team that gets its butt kicked every year. Each year you hope they will win even though you know they suck and each time she releases new albums you hope they'll be good but we get disappointed time after time. We think there's talent there but it never shines through. Fool's gold (you too John Legend).
    In a world of youtube 2 second fame, she fits right in.

  63. Avatar

    Supremely Over-rated!!!! and like others have said folk that really know usic been saying this for the longest, including moi'.

  64. Alicia Keys is also overrated because she still has yet to credit the people really responsible for many of her songs. For a so-called musician, I find it incredibly off-putting.

  65. "See Beyonce, Rihanna and Mariah "
    I am personally offended that you lump beyonce and mariah in the same category as Rihanna. While Bey and Mariah are often scantily clad, they can SING THEIR A**es off. Rihanna should be in the same category as ciara and britney spears. Get it right people. I know Beyonce and Mariah do not fit your "soul" category of good music but get it right.
    Thanks

  66. Love this dialog, let us remember tho the person in front is not always in control. Let us all worship at the altar of Clive.

  67. Man, I almost took this article seriously until the author started going back to the "real" music of the 60's and 70's. Now I love that music, I will never put it down, but I also understand when evaluating music that it just isn't fair to compare modern music against the entire space time continuum of music. If Alicia Keyes was playing back in the 70's her music would sound very very different, Earth Wind and Fire, the O'Jays and the Gap Band couldn't even exist in this era of music because it is so band unfriendly and even if the groups played together the music would not sound the same. Its not a knock on their skill as musicians, but the fact that music is a function of society as a whole and whats going on at the time.
    The music is what came out of that time, if you want more of that music we need what created it, MLK, Malcom X, mass segregation, vietnam (not this mess we are in now, but a war where we were losing a day what this war cost us to date), and most of all, total innovation in music and not 40 years of heritage to pull from as well as the mass exploitation of out musicians to the degree where they all get played like TLC.
    The music does not come out of the blue, it comes from experiences, the heart and what the artist can get past the gate keepers. To think otherwise is to be naive and self righteous at the same time.

  68. I disagree with Started. Earth Wind and Fire, The Ojays -- these bands are timeless. Good music is good music regardless of the era. So this is where we disagree, is the artist a fad, like wearing clothing backwards and FuBU, that can only exist for an era, a period of time? You really stared something, Started. If Alicia is a true talent her music will stand the test of time and it should be able to be compared to the "entire space time continuum of music." I can play "Songs in the Key of Life" by Stevie Wonder today or anything by Prince or Marvin or Teena Marie and it still sounds as magnificent as it did back in the day. Then I have some CD's that I never play anymore (like Brandy) because they were catchy tunes for the moment, but I outgrew them. Real music stands the test of time. I believe Alicia has her place -- but let's not get it twisted, she ain't no Aretha, she ain't even Whitney.

  69. Ok to all u people who say alicia is overrated, boring, and bland, U R SOOOO WRONG!!!!!!!
    Alicia has come a long way and has created her own style of music and all u people who think she hasn't than u r SOOOO WRONG,again. U people who think shes bland probably prefer beyonces bootyliciousness and voice and dont pay that much attention to her talent beneath her singing.
    Alicia has an amazing voice, write amazing music and much more, so she dosent need 2 shake her butt and sell her body.
    I am one of her biggest fans and i think NO ONE can touch her.
    Caseclosed, end of discussion, pointblank.
    AKeys fan 4EVA!!!!

  70. you know what this is just crazy how dare you write this trASH ABOUT ALICIA SHE IS ONE OF THE BEST SINGERS OUT THERE COMPARED TO MOST ARIST SHE IS ONE AND ONLY AND NOT TO MINCHEN SEXY AS HELL JUST CHECK OUT HER BIKINI PICUTERS LIKE ARE NOT SHES RIGHT UP THERE WITH ALL THOSE GREAT ARIST ALL YOU HATERS ARE JUST MAD BECAUSE YOU WHISH YOU WHERE LIKE HER . OH AND JOHN LENGED IS GREAT JUST LISTIN TO HIS SONGS

  71. OH AND ONE LAST THING JUST IN CASE YOU TRIED TO GO AFTER BEYONCE REMEMBER THAT JUST BECAUSE SHE SHAKES IT DOES NOT MEAN SHE CANT SING BECAUSE SHE CAN .

  72. AND I POSTED THIS BECAUSE IM A DIED HEART FAN OF ALICIA AND BEYONCE I HAVE SEEN THEM LIVE AND HAVE ALL OF THERE CDS AND DVDS AND SHIRTS.

  73. That nail was smacked soundly on its head. Sadly, the farther in years we get from true musicianship, the fewer consumers who will recognize it.

  74. Yes, she has a few catchy songs, and she is always singing off key. I've always had an issue with her success, because it seems as though she started the racially ambiguous agenda of marketing. As long as you are a beautiful, racially ambiguous person, it doesn't matter how talented you are. During the last 15 years we have developed into a society of people with extremely low expectations, when it comes to our entertainment. It is really sad when you think about it.



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