Alicia Keys’ ‘HERE’ discusses race, music, gender, politics and more


Alicia Keys’ “The Gospel” as seen on Apple Music. Photo credit: Rylee Pedotti

Alicia Keys has long been revered for her vocal prowess and soulful awareness. In a time where artists are using candid self-reflection to deliver honest and forthcoming projects, Alicia Keys delivers with her most recent release.

In a statement to fans posted to her website, Keys confesses that HERE aligns with this trend of transparency, “On this album, I’ve arrived HERE. A place where I’m willing to truthfully look at myself in the mirror and to also see the reality of who we have become in this world. The good, the ugly, the shadows and the light.”

HERE utilizes the spoken word of Keys over soft piano on “The Beginning (Interlude),” birthing suspense and intrigue reminiscent of the James Bond theme.

While the piano’s resonance rings loud throughout the album, Keys wastes no time sending off fireworks with old school hip-hop rhymes on “The Gospel.” The eclectic rhythm of “Pawn It All” is one guaranteed to induce head-bobbing swagger. Meanwhile, Keys confesses the implications of the capricious children of Mother Earth on “Kill Your Mama” singing, “Is there any saving us/We’ve become so dangerous/Is there any change in us/Even for the sake of love.”

Atop the seductive melody of “Illusion of Bliss,” Keys projects her vocal chops seamlessly while assuming the role of a 29 year old addict with tenacious grit. The Pharrell produced track “Work On It” illustrates the navigational challenges of any relationship while giving listeners the boisterous R&B backbeat that is imperative to Alicia Keys’ conventional sound.

Electing for a sound which combines reggae, funk and R&B, Keys provides an anthem for women in “Girl Can’t Be Herself” citing the everyday challenges and criticisms faced by the gender. Keys takes listeners to church with robust vocals delicately intertwined invigorating melodies on “More Than We Know.”

Throughout the record, Keys provides recess from her worldly assessments and introspective assertions with conversational interludes. Discussion about race, music, gender, politics and various other relevant themes offer listeners perhaps their most valuable glimpse into Keys’ person.

The project concludes with a showcase of Keys’ social consciousness on “Holy War.” The recorded track opts for a more reserved route of delivery in comparison to Keys’ impassioned 2016 VMAs Speech in which she shared a poem that would become the opening lyrics of the song. Keys makes a plea intent on love and understanding singing, “What if sex was holy and war was obscene/And it wasn’t twisted, what a wonderful dream/Living for love unafraid of the end/Forgiveness is the only real revenge.”

As expected, Keys marches forward sonically and politically with HERE capitalizing on her keen understanding of both music and social apprehensions. While this album may not achieve optimal prestige in the age of streaming, it is sure to strike an organic chord in the hearts and minds of its listeners.

Rylee Pedotti can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.