The Element of Freedom

Alicia Keys’s fourth album entitled The Element of Freedom she digs deep into the multitude of implications of independence and it can the  issues of loneliness and insecurity as well as the potential for strength through self-sufficiency it may bring with it.

In “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” she’s wrote  an intriguing catchphrase: “I’m gonna find a way to make it without you . . .,” this phrase alones shows that Keys is admitting she’s still searching for a full-fledged sense of security in whatever newfound freedom she has come into.

This song explores the idea of healing from a broken heart which most people can identify with. The song also endeavors to discover ways in
which one can recover from the unfortunate experience of having their heart broken. One begins to wonder whether she is taking the one-day-at-a-time approach for romantic addiction.  Or is it simply a case of applying on a big emotional aching sore? Or might she be affirming that the path to true independence always begins right here, right now and that the pain was part of the process to her freedom?

One never really deciphers as to which is most applicable but the ambiguity makes for a richer more tasteful song. 

She sonically paints with rather broad strokes in this album, in some cases freely slathering and padding on colors and textures in contrast
to the reasonably simpler approach on her  earlier tracks such as her 2007 hit “No One. “The album’s main co-producers — Jeff Bhaske,
Kerry “Krucial” Brothers and Swizz Beatz do a breathtaking job in ensuring that this layering in her music is not overwhelming, they do it subtly yet effectively.  Yet at times, one wishes she had exercised  a little less of her freedom she in adding anything and everything that was at her disposal.

She does pull back the reins effectively in “Love Is My Disease,” which opens with sparse backing and a subtle reggae undercurrent; Keys
allows her usually impeccable voice to express the unraveling of emotion as she faces her inability to stand tall in this particular song. She takes the persona of one who is overwhelmed by love and helplessly as well as hopelessly succumbed by the emotion.

To balance a rather highly emotive album we see , self-confidence  in full bloom in “Put It in a Love Song,” which is her bubbling duet with Beyoncé[4] which has the potential to a number single Keys also features Drake[5], who adds in for  background vocals on “Un-thinkable (I’m Ready).”

She closes the 14-song collection with “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down,” reprising her portion of the recent collaboration with Jay-Z[6]. This reprise is  done ballad style with additional lyrics that testify to the strength she draws from her surroundings in the great metropolis of New York.

After the all-too-human ups and downs she’s experienced through the rest of the album, ultimately she comes out of it sounding pretty well.



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