Over the past several weeks, Alicia Keys has been prepping to get back into grind mode. She teased the single “New Day” (which is now a 50 Cent song featuring Alicia Keys? I can’t keep up,) and released the cover art for her fifth studio album, Girl on Fire.
The title track was released earlier this week in three different incarnations. The two main ones are the “Blue Light” version and the “Inferno” version, which features Nicki Minaj. The former version sounds like pretty much textbook Alicia Keys. You’ll hear a bit of “No One” and “Doesn’t Mean Anything” on it as well as (at least in the spoken intro) “That’s The Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson. I was thinking I was going to dig this version more than the Minaj version, but lo and behold, it doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s also the sense that Keys is going for a grittier vocal sound, and there are some notes here that would’ve made even Mary J. circa 1997 wince.
The more beat-centric version is the winner. Keys is full-throated (and on key,) it’s got a decent head-nodding groove, and Nicki continues to be one of the most frustrating emcees in recent history. When she’s on (and she’s on during this track) she’s one of the more fearsome female emcees not just currently, but of all time. If she was able to maintain lyrical proficiency like this over the course of an entire album, people might dig her more. Well, I might. The girl has two platinum albums. She doesn’t need my help.
Girl on Fire (the album) will be released on November 27th.