Although she is only 27, in many ways Keys comes across as a proud throwback: a soul singer in the era of abbreviated R&B hooks.
She writes and produces her own songs with various collaborators.
She is an accomplished keyboardist and a singer who needs no electronic assistance.
With "As I Am", she returns to a purer, more traditional soul sound, ranging from from the anthemic single "No One" and the title track --which harnesses her romantic piano style to a punchy hip-hop drum programme -- to the sweet, caramel-smooth "Tell You Something" to the powerful, raw-voiced anthems "Go Ahead" and "Superwoman".
The latter -- in which she channels every great diva who has ever asserted the power of woman -- draws on gospel and the Beatles, moving from uncertainty to determination. It's a reminder, she says, to herself. "Even when I'm out, and I'm just a mess, and everything's not great, and I'm struggling to figure out what is what" she says, "I'm still a superwoman".
Much of this album feels like a deliberate homage to the best of mainstream Seventies and Eighties soul, with a pop-savvy modern edge contributed by co-producer Linda Perry.
In place of former hip-hop and the urban influences on "The Diary of Alicia Keys", which featured collaboration with rappers Nas and Rakim , she has brought in blues maestro John Mayer, who complements her neatly on the wry, piano-heavy "Lesson Learned".
Alicia Keys has never offered private details in her songs. Her hits, like "A Woman's Worth" and '"f I Ain't Got You", have revolved around advice and generalities.
The usual complaint about Soul music is that the lyrics so often sound like an afterthought.
That doesn't change in her new songs and her new album.
"As I Am" is no exception on that count. Keys famously keeps her personal life a watertight secret, so that you could read anything you like into these lyrics without them carrying any personal feeling at all.
If you can listen to that fluting, fierce, clear, dirty, magnificent voice while simultaneously shutting out the banality of what it's expressing, you'll have hours of pleasure from this gorgeously melodic, curiously old-fashioned album.
Other highlights include her paean to spicy lovemaking "Wreckless Love", featuring a Jack Splash production blending his jazzy drum shuffle with horn and string arrangements reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield, and "Teenage Love Affair", on which she seems to summon up the ghost of that earlier pioneer of sophisticated Big Apple soul, Laura Nyro.
My favourite tracks : "Tell You Something", "Superwoman", "Wreckless Love", "Teenage Love Affair", "No One" and "Go Ahead".
All in one word : brilliant.
Have a great listening experience!