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3.9 out of 5 stars
Songs In A Minor
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on December 4, 2003
I know, I know. Alicia Keys writes, she produces, and plays piano. And that's great. But I fail to hear the greatness here. I know back in 2001 Alicia was of a certain creative caliber that was unique in popular music but... The point is, Songs In A Minor has no impressive songs besides the ones released to radio- Fallin'(which has been so worn out it makes me gag now), A Woman's Worth(which I never was a big fan of from the get-go), and How Come You Don't Call Me- that's it. The rest are filler. And THIS won Grammys? Well, it had to have been more about the artist Alicia, whom I really do like. I think she is really talented but doesn't utilize her talent to her advantage. The Grammys usually don't know what they're doing anyhow. Come on, I almost fell out of my chair today when the nominations were announced for the 2004 Grammys and friggin' Fountains Of Wayne was nominated for New Artist and Stacie Orrico was totally ignored! And I actually like F Of W's song ironically titled "Stacy's Mom" but come on... Hey, what about Simple Plan? I'm not even a fan of those guys but they deserve it. But back to Songs In A Minor. I really, really wanted to like this CD but at the end of the day, it isn't that much better than the other R&B crapolla cluttering the music shelves. Just like The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, Songs In A Minor is basically a bird without wings that for some unexplicable reason, the media and the critics wanted to hype up. Like I said, Alicia Keys the artist I like but the CD is a waste of time and money.
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on September 26, 2002
Well, here it is. We got run amok! Led astray! Bamboozled! Hoodwinked! We didn't land on Alicia Keys! Alicia Keys landed on us! (Ok, I'm trippin' I know)
Led astray.
Don't believe the hype! Her debut single FALLIN' had me feelin' this chick. This old soul. I just knew she was gonna be legit. Wow. I got duped. Let's start at the intro and her naiveness on how "long" it took for her to finally come out. Wow! 2 years! That's almost a lifetime for most of us, huh? Please. Her youth is embarrassingly showing right there. I know people that have been trying to break into the biz for 20 years. Then she hits us with GIRLFRIEND. Wow. How weak is that song? She fooled me with FALLIN'. Boy, did she ever! I thought she was deep. Knew thangs. Lived thangs. But then she hits me with "I think I'm jealous of your boyfriend." Not even high school stuff...middle school at best.
Bamboozled, I tell ya.
The intros to each song are way too long. ROCK WIT U is just plain weak. I think Clive wanted to show off his prodigy when he shoulda pulled her by the reigns and guided her better by putting other producers on it the job. He thought he was getting the female version of Prince and allowed her to produce too much on her debut effort. Wrong move. She gets by with the good looks, but again, Ashanti proved looks can get you far...but substance will keep you around.
Hoodwinked, I say.
There are glimpses of light on MR. MAN, HOW COME U DON'T CALL ME ANYMORE, CAGED BIRD and the BONUS TRACK, but that's where it stops. She's pop with a little soul. In concert she's a bit livelier and it's always nice to see a pianist play. But, I wouldn't wanna see her with this much control on her sophomore joint. Clive, get her some help, dog.
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on July 4, 2002
I first bought this CD about two months ago, and if I had written a review then, I probably would have given it 5 stars. I was totally into this CD!!! It was like nothing I had heard before. But after about two weeks, the enthusiasm wore off, and I started noticing the MAJOR flaws in the album.
First of all, the beats of these songs are really good, but the lyrics are terrible. Some of her phrases just don't make much sense, and it seems she just threw together a bunch of lines that just rhymed. There is no depth to many of the songs.
Next, she repeatedly states on her album that all songs are written and arranged by herself. But in teeny tiny print next to it, it always says except where noted. And trust me, there are a ton of "notes". Only six of the sixteen tracks are written and arranged by herself. All the rest of the songs she got help on, and in fact, two of the songs (How Come You Don't Call Me and Never Felt This Way) weren't even written by her or her "assistants". Prince and Brian McKnight wrote these two songs. What's funny is that before I knew this fact, these two were two of my favorites songs on the album. If you ask me, she was very deceitful in claiming to have written and arranged all of the songs. It has taught me to look for the fine print.
Third, although her voice is much better than a lot of the artists out there, she doesn't have the ability to sing long before having to take another breath. She is constantly taking breaths thoughout the album. This isn't THAT big of a deal though, and I'm sure it can be corrected with a little bit of vocal training.
I do believe that Alicia Keys has a lot of potential though. If she just works on her lyrical skills and gets a little bit of vocal training, she could be awesome. I will probably buy her next album only after listening to it ahead of time. I hope she does improve, though, because she could be incredible if she just tries.
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on June 21, 2002
I wanted to like this album. Honestly, I did. Alicia Keys has talent, but it seems as though her managers are trying to turn her into a money-making machine instead of a true R&B artist. She seems more like a pop star who can play an instrument rather than an actual R&B/soul artist. I listened to this record and honestly it is not all what it was cracked up to be by the media. I liked a few of the songs, but the rest I could've cared less for. And she also could've had more upbeat songs, too. Why did they all have to be so slow? Sure, this is R&B music. But not ALL R&B has to be THIS slow. Alicia is also a talented pianoist, but I've heard better. And she really needs to work on her songwriting skills. Most of them were just covers of other artists' old songs. And "Songs in a Minor" was overproduced, too. She should've let someone else produce this album. The very few songs I thought were okay on this CD were "Fallin'" (though definitely overplayed, it's still probably the best track and her only true "hit song"), "Troubles", "Mr. Man", "A Woman's Worth", and "Butterflyz". I also think that some of the lyrics on this CD are too mature for her, and others are too immature for her. She should write songs that she can actually relate to. That was probably one of the biggest mistakes Alicia made. Stop worrying about what the public can relate to, and start writing songs that are meaningful to you and that you, yourself can relate to. And now onto that voice...let's just say that Alicia's voice has some high points and low points on this album, but unfortunately more low points than high. I thought "Songs in a Minor" was going to be excellent and worth the 5 Grammys she earned for it along with a whole bunch of other honors and awards she had also received. But let's face it, it was not. However, this doesn't mean that the album was BAD or the worst album released last year. But it just didn't live up to the hype I'd expected it to be. Perhaps others will like it a lot. "Songs in a Minor" was just not my cup of tea.
Final Grade: D
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I fell into the hype I guess. I couldn't wait to get a copy of her album. My lil sister finally got it and I was sooo dissapointed. I couldn't even stand listening to it at first cuz it was so annoying. Then eventually, I kinda got into a couple of tracks that are descent. It's an Okay album but NOTHING as big as they hyped it up to be. Here's a few reasons why:
"Piano & I" - Original? No. I'm like "What the heck is this?!" And she tries to thro in a lil profanity to, I guess, maybe prove that she's grown since most of the lyrics in the album wer written wen she was young. Sad.
"Girlfriend" - i used to like this song. Then I realized, hey u kno wut? Alicia Keys has a freaking Pattern that she uses in ALL and EVERY song. After a while, it gets old. My 6 year old cousin can play this song on the piano! It's not that difficult. No skills here. Just some weird beat that she used to make it sound difficult. That may hav been smart.
"How Come You Don't Call Me" - I like this song. Even tho it also follows that Pattern. I was dissapointed to learn that it was a remake of Prince's song becuz I was giving her all the credit for writing such a tight song and she didn't even write it. That's one of the best songs on the album and it's not even hers!
"Fallin'" - so played out, I instantly advance to the next track. ANd SOOO redundant. Talent? No... I don't think so.
"Troubles" -this song also suffers from Pattern-ism but I like this song becuz the vocals are pretty descent considering the fact that Alicia has an God-awful voice. She can play the piano but her vocal skills need training.
"Rock Wit You" - this is my favorite song on the album becuz of the instrumental and I think this is her best vocal performance on the album becuz she actually sings in her range. She has a low voice so it's not a good idea for her to screach and scream like she's tryna be Mariah or sumthing (an example of this type of sound is in the song "The Life". The intro is long but it reminds me of REAL music that you don't get these days. Also, Alicia has the "hook up" cuz she's got Isaac Hayes on her album so it's not all HER talent.
"Woman's Worth" - i never really liked this song. Too annoying.
"Goodbye" - hate this song. Sounds like that Brian McKnight song, suffers from Pattern-ism, and she HAD to have wrote this wen she was 14.
"The Life" - good beat, I can groove, but she needs to quit screaching. Sing in your range, sweety. Nice instrumental goin on.
"Mr Man" - This is the jam. I really like this song cuz I can groove to it. Her vocals aren't all that bad w/ the help of the male vocalist to back her up. You can't hear the piano in this one.
"Never Felt This Way" - it's cute. Probly wrote it at a young age. I like playing this on the piano, myself. I'm a Beginner at piano and I can play it exactly the way she does so I'm guessing, maybe she's not all that talented if even I can play it.
"Butterflyz" - i'd say this is one of the better songs. I listen to this to relax. The instrumental is great. The vocals are alright. Sweet song.
Anything past this point on the album I normally will not listen to except I was unfortunate to accidently listen to "Lovin' U" which made me exceptionally angry becuz she used bits and peices from sooo many song and just threw them all together in a different order and calls it "Original". Any REAL musician knows that's not Original. Plus she screaches waay too much. YOU ARE AN ALTO! Maybe even TENOR! You are NOT a Soprano!! Her voice is so raspy and it's not cute. Also they shoulda cleaned up her sibilance while they wer recording in the studio. Too many times, I listen to some of the songs and feel like I'm being Spit on every time she sings a "p" or "s". They must've been lazy on it. Also, Alicia is just big cuz they say she is. She's pretty, she plays the piano but is this REALLY "good" music? C'mon... 5 Grammy's?! GIVE THEM BACK! She didn't deserve them ALL. MAYBE one. Just Maybe. But I also have India.Arie's album and I like India.Arie so much better cuz she's more mature in her work, she can actually sing, and she ALSO plays her own instruments and writes her own songs so I think she's the way to go. Is it becuz we don't see India.Arie in our face every that she isn't as big as Alicia? Gee... it really makes me angry to the point that I HAD to write this review. Sooo... the basic point is, if you don't have this album, you're not missing ANYTHING. Infact, you're lucky.
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on June 2, 2002
i really liked her when i first heard fallin', but after a while i figured out that the "accomplished pianist,vocalist,and songwriter",is really a manufactured product just like much of the rest. After a while songs like fallin' and how come you don't call me lose their potential, because the melodies are obviously (lets just put it this way,"unoriginal"). The whole album is poor, it just sounds cheap.Trust me,i tried to like this album, i really did, but the songs are just so incredibly terrible.And the lyrics really got to me.mature?the lyrics are troit,insensitive,and just so cliche, i mean,all alicia sings about is how her man's leavin',or how much she just luvs to please him.But if she's really such "a worthy woman", then stop with ur fainting dog, i need my man ,oh so shallow lyrics.And 5 grammys.my God.That left me speachless.Because of shallow "soul artists"like alicia keys,truly talented,original artists were robbed,such as india arie,jill scott,faith evans.Don't get me wrong, i dont think alicia is totally giftless, but she is nothing special, a nice night club singer in brooklyn, nothing more.Her voice is average, very rough,and raspy, without any softness or emotion whatsoever.and im soorry but what it is with all the hype about her piano playing skills????fur elise is something ive played in my 1st year of piano lessons, and moonlight sonata is also not a work of genius.I've tried to sound as sensible as possible here, but i am just not feeling the music here.Alicia is not accomplished, she is manufactured.
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on April 15, 2002
yawnn. When i first saw the hype about this girl I watched the video "fallin" I thought she was nothing great. She was light and cute that is usual requirement for crossover marketability to work. I was however not going to be bias I wanted to see if her whole album was worth the hype. The only song that I semi like is "a woman's worth" I do not understand how she won the grammies over Indie arie Alicia had an adequate voice but she isnt a powerhouse vocalist. She is no India irie, angie stone, Faith evans and no way near the obsure Kelly Price. What to you do when you are overly hyped by your beauty You milk it for all its worth. She dosent stand out she sounds like alot of average r&b singers but she is more beautiful than alot so that is always a deciding factor. It also helps to be a Clive Davis's protege' known for making superstars with the right marketing tools. I am throughly disappointed in America that the record industry is still ruled by Image and who is marketable rather than raw, immense talents. IF america got a clue like Europe they would allow more less photogenic Real talents into the business only then will music stop being mass produced and get back to originality and great music. It is worth noting that alot of less beautiful or long in tooth up and coming american artists find huge sucess in Europe I am one who wont waste my time trying to make it in superifical America where talent is optional looks is everything. Lets face it if Alicia looked like an angie stone, or Kelly Price (who can outsing anyone) She would not even of gotten a grammy or went beyond platinum that is how it works.
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on March 18, 2002
I bought this as a tape because of all the hype about how great it is. So I had higher than normal expectations. The first song Piano was some play and some talk not singing which is kind of disappointing. The next song Girlfriend was okay. Not great. The third Prince adapted song is the best of the tape. Has some shades of Aretha Franklin in it and showcases what Keys can do with her voice. Fallin was really not that good. Perhaps it was my tape version but it sounded way too high pitched. I saw Keys perform that song live at the Grammies and it was very good. Too bad my tape didn't sound that good--problem with production perhaps. Troubles was a good song. Not as hyped but better than Fallin per the tape. Rockin Wit You sort sounds like the Michael Jackson song only the Jackson song is better. A Woman's Worth is okay but not great. Same could be said of Jane Doe and Mr. Man. Overall the tape is a disappointment and not worth the [money] I paid for it. No tape is worth [the money] if one only really likes one song on it.
I think the reason for the very low ratings for this Cd is twofold: 1) because it is overly hyped people expect much more from it only to get real disappointed and 2) India Arie because she is outstanding.
Keys is talented and her music is good but if you own or listend to Arie's CD you definitely know why everyone is saying Arie is better. I think to be fair it should be said that Keys is talented and can sing live well but her CD as an overall CD isn't that good. With less than half the songs being very good to moderate it definitely would not qualify as an Album of the Year stuff whereas Aries CD where every song is very good to excellent musically and lyrically (even more so) deserved it's Album of the Year nomination status. I think a lot of people see Keys as stealing the awards from Arie. But being real, the Grammys are just like the Oscars. What you see as the best isn't always so.
The other problem with Keys which perhaps limiting is that her songs are in A minor. As someone else said wish she would have song in other keys (excuse the pun). Because Keys stuck with the higher pitched tone of A minor then compared to the bassy sounds of India Arie it's like listening to the difference between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera or Olivan Newton-John and Linda Ronstadt. Arie, on the other hand, did not limit her album to that and so she sang in every acoustic guitar key and did it beautifully. I guess you can count that as another reason Arie's CD sounded so much better than Keys.
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on March 18, 2002
Maybe not since Moby's CD "Play" in 1999 did most critics, music scribes and on this occasion even the overlords of the prestigious Grammy Awards go ecstatic over what might best be described realistically, at least after a couple of close listenings, as a middling or wanting debut effort, worthy maybe of a couple of stars, a 4 out of 10 rating or a C+ (in deference to Robert Christgau). Instead this album represented All the R&B CDs released in 2001 in the top 20 of the Annual Village Voice Critics' Invitational Poll and, as you might already know, won pretty big too at the 2002 Grammy ceremonies. Frankly, as one keen reviewer put it and how I heard this CD while listnening to it at a local Virgin Record listening station about three times myself, the music on this CD simply exists as an accoutrement or trapping for her dulcet voice and "damn" piano playing, as that reviewer bluntly put it. Otherwise this music wasn't meant to beckon the listener into the artist's psyche, as soul music has traditionally thrived to do, but serves an insular and one dimensional standing next to her vaunted piano playing and voice. Thus I don't regard this artist, like seemingly those scores of critics and music scribes Might have, as some sort of redeemer of a profoundly troubled genre like Rhythm and Blues/Soul and would recommend instead trying out a small label group like the Poets of Rhythm for a varied and exhiliarating take on this still venerable form of music.
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on March 5, 2002
So many ... have made their distinguishing between Alicia and other newcomer artists, asserting very sullenly that she had not deserved her 5 Grammies, she is a novice artist who did not define any measure of "soul" in her debut album, she's a amateur
who, by one means or another slithered her way into the media, the radio, the television. Now there is no escaping her! (I found this to be sure myself.) Isn't it correct that Alicia flaunts and parades her petty and tremulous talent, she never pitch a note equivalent to that of the celebrated divas of our culture? She has swiped other songs off the charts in producing her own? ("A Man's World"?)
With all of her limitations how did she so called make the excessive hype? Alicia's glory "key" lies in the reality she ventured and tried on bringing already widespread and established soul and spirit to her music instead of bearing her own kind. It is prominent what she tried to recreate in "A Woman's Worth", which, in my opinion flounders and falls shorts of a adequate song. In addition to the fact she seems to emit her vocal range here, the words stifle together tightly. It arranges as a somber tune, obscure and gray, and comes out as a
dignified satire of colorful and original pieces.
Songs such as "Fallin'" and "Mr. Man", can justify to be entertaining at most, but the fulfillment is somehow depleted by their, too, drab attempt at shaping eloquent music. Others, such as, "Girlfriend", "Jane Doe", "How Come You Don't Call Me" are doubtful to even call songs--where's the beat, the melody, the purpose for that matter? Alicia may produce more than sufficent
skill on the piano, but why even incorporate "Piano & I" and "Never Felt This Way" into the CD? There is 15 tracks too many. "Butterflyz" strike me as almost farcical piece, which means something is very wrong.
As a conclusion, this album as no more than led listeners astray to believe that in some songs the falsification is sincere, it's actual representation of it's music is Alicia's indiviudual strain at creating, not the grounds of it, which is her clever approach to leading us to into the allurement of revised familiar matter, whether it was intending or not, albeit it did take talent to do so. It's easily disregarded tracks are soon only to mingle in the far-flung world of pop-culture without a ample amount of freshness to endure.
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