3 Reasons Why Alicia Keys is a Genius

Alicia Keys - As I Am

For the love of all things good and right, give one (1) listen to Alicia Keys’ new album “As I Am.” One listen, completely through. I can give you 3 reasons why this will be worth your while:

1.)  Alicia Keys is writing standards – You will be hearing some of these songs in the future. Maybe your kid will sing one in a talent show. Maybe Keith Richards will cover it at a future Rolling Stones reunion show (we all know he can’t die.) You will definitely hear one of these songs in a movie in 2042, and it will be a throwback tune. These songs will stick.

2.) The songs defy genre.  Do you still think Alicia Keys writes R&B songs? You dope. Don’t feel bad, she probably thinks she does too. She doesn’t. In fact, she writes songs the way Elton John wrote songs: simply, confidently, and with chord progressions so rock-solid they can be re-interpreted in any other genre and hold up nicely. Shine even.

3.) Some of these tunes actually hit you.  There’s the girl-power anthemic tune “Superwoman,” and the hit single “No One” (who says radio is dead??). But they can’t touch songs like “…You’ll Never See Me Again.” This song knocked me out. When you get to it, and you will (it’s track 4, and immediately follows the previously mentioned tracks. Somehow the album doesn’t peak here…), be sure to listen. It’s the best advice you’ll get this year.

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19 Responses to 3 Reasons Why Alicia Keys is a Genius

  1. sondan says:

    I am not so sure I would call here genius since a lot – if not most – of her music is “lifted/sampled” from the music of a greater and better era (sixties). Her latest “hit is a blatant rip-off of Bob Marley: I am positive that is if go through my entire (very extensive) Marley collection I will find the exact same riff she has used.

    In addition, her singing leaves a lot to be desired. I read in an interview she made at the start of her career, that her intent was to be a song writer, but mentor Robert Flack suggested that she record her own music to maximize profits. Looks like it has worked for Ms Keye — but once again I would not call her a musical genius. Just a good musician who got lucky in the industry.

    Take care. Hope that we can just agree to disagree on this particular topic. ;-).
    BTW Nice blog.

  2. lithe says:

    I’m always willing to agree to disagree.

    The fact is, Roberta Flack recognized something in Alicia Keys that she felt was worth cultivating. Call it genius, talent, potential, brilliance–Alicia Keys plays well, sings better than most, writes music, and writes lyrics. She does all of these things extremely well but, most importantly, she does them all extremely well TOGETHER.

    It’s this kind of higher-level synthesis of skills that sets her apart from her musical peers. Everyone worth a damn has influences, no doubt (“Good artists copy. Great artists steal. ” – Pablo Picasso), but I don’t think this undermines Alicia Keys’ level of excellence as a total musician and performer.

    Anyway, I’m just glad to hear you’re digging the blog. Let’s keep the debates flowing…

  3. c. hans says:

    Well put, lithe.

    As far as influence goes, take Hendrix. His riffs are prevalent throughout music from blues to rock to good ol’ DMB – “Jimi Thing” anyone? And I don’t make that connection because of the title – i’ve read dave’s comment that “jimi” is a condom in England – but rather it’s underlying riff that hails from the days of great songs like Little Wing.

  4. Paul says:

    Who ever calls Alicia Keys a genius is an idiot’ young people today are the dumbest people on earth’ they never do any research” your GENIUS does not sample anything she out right steels other peoples hard work and gets rich” ‘Stevie Wonder” is a “GENIUS” so if Alicia Keys is a genius STEVIE must be JESUS ” Cause she SUCKS,,, how tha hell do U sing out of tune in the dam studio when all recording studio’s have auto tuning with just a click of a mouse,, she’s so bad her crap can’t even be fixed,, what a dam shame,, and her playing sounds like any little kid who took classical piano lessons for a couple of years then stopped,, i suggest U go back and listen or watch Aretha Franklin play and sing, go on YOUTUBE, you probably didn’t even know she played,, while your at it listen,, to ‘Marvin Gaye’ ‘Donny Hathaway’ ‘Ray Charles’ Oleta Adams ”O and Alicia’s biggest STUDENT that guy STEVIE WONDER who only plays DRUMS BASS KEYS GUITAR & more & came up with cords so complicated that even great musicians can’t figure them out” all these people play with one finger on a bad day better than Alicia the “genius” while a sleep. Go listen to James Brown’s (IT’S A MAN WORLD) Released on Feb, 16 1966′ then listen to so called Alicia’s Fallin, the THEAF,, one more (Eddie Kendricks “Intimate Friends”)released 1978 DO YOUR RESEARCH before U call A THEAF a genius >>>>> FOOL.

  5. lithe says:

    Thief.

    It’s spelled thief.

    Thanks for posting!

  6. Paul says:

    U Got Tha POINT” Mistake, But not even close to the T-H-I-E-F Being a (genius) which would U rather make, Did U listen to those two songs Written Recorded & Released before your girl was born,, U wont respect her after u do,, not tryin to bash U bro,, Im a Pro’ Musician in the business for over 30 years,, no true Artist does what she does,, i know some of the people who wrote some of the songs back then,, think of how pissed U would be if these were your tunes someone released as original,, then was called a genius for writing them,,, even if she payed,, give Credit,, thats all Im saying bro,, PLEASE,,start listening to 60’s & 70’s everybody was Killin it,, thats why tha young cats sample this stuff,, Home gurl is a hit cause thats all she listens to,,and what she doesn’t steal she writes with that flavor,, but believe that they are still,, based on another song from then,, thats cool” cause if u can take tha flavor but not copy’ that’s a real skill ‘ that most writers Haven’t mastered’ I’m not sure yet, if she did this with “If i Ain’t Got” U’ because it sounds really familiar’ but if she did ? i truly give her credit as a Good Writer “Really Good” that tune is tha bomb,, Thats all my Big Mouth has to say P-E-A-C-E

  7. lithe says:

    I have nothing but love and respect for the music that came out of the 60’s and 70’s. I can even make a case for the 50’s. They were the Golden Ages of music, but all I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with a Renaissance.

    Look, by your logic the entire hip hop genre has no credibility. Producers and artists owe a huge debt to James Brown and his horn section, and they use samples from almost every type of artist imaginable. Jay-Z has even sampled the musical “Annie,” and Tupac has interpolated Bruce Hornsby. But I think you’ll agree its their use of these original pieces, and the way they’re able to hear them in a new way, that makes them legitimate works of creativity (not to mention the flow between choruses…)

    Then there’s the value of turning a new generation on to the music of past decades. By integrating old music into new music, you create a thread that gets a young generation turned on to the original inspirations.

    My admiration for Alicia comes from her (seemingly) effortless way of combining lyric, melody, and musicianship–even if her inspiration comes from musical heroes from years past. Countless female R&B singers know Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Brenda Holloway, Donnie Hathaway, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder… but how many of those singers have managed to use these sources of inspiration to write a hit song? Not many. And Alicia has many hits under her name, which she not only wrote, but plays and sings.

    It does not take a genius to cover a hit song. And it doesn’t take a genius to be inspired by Motown. But it takes a certain level of brilliance to use your inspiration to create something new that inspires a new generation. It’s not easy. Alicia is the whole package, and she has a sensibility and taste that keeps her from overdoing it. There is a restrained genius and maturity in her phrasing and songwriting, and I think she’s one of the best musicians we have these days.

    You might also want to consider the opinion of 60’s legend Bob Dylan who has actually name dropped Alicia Keys in one of his songs, and has famously been quoted as saying, “There’s nothing about that girl I don’t like.” (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article3403940.ece)

  8. Paul says:

    Well you’re right to mention Bob Dylan” Not From what he said about Keys” But at the same i definitely respect your admiration for her ,, because i felt the same” i thought it was refreshing to hear a young act,, doing something that was the flavor of one of the greatest era’s in Music History the 70’s. But even if i think a person just out right sucks? I’ve always felt that if they write just one great tune in all there career they should go down in the books with everybody you mentioned,, Cats like Dylan are from another Planet’ although his lyrical style comes from Great Writers of famous Novels,, And yes you are right that even Geniuses get there creativity or inspiration from other sources but,, there art stays Original because they got an idea from someone they admired true,, but it wouldn’t be honoring if they totally copied that work,, its a nice and natural process. If it weren’t for Dylan and the Greats before him,, would we have the Joni Mitchell & Donald Fagen & so on, that we now know? most likely not,, these people where all young just out of there teens,, and look at what they did,, I’ve heard them say that they were floored by Dylan’s music and Lyrical phrasing” it’s the (wheel) it can’t be reinvented. What bothers me is i like the truth, in everything,, if a person gets rich from what ever,, it means nothing to me ‘If its about money and fame (Not that you’re saying that) But it’s like someone walking a tight rope and falling off 20 times but each time they fall they get back on at the spot they fell off ‘each time, eventually of course they would make it across,, but an audience member could easily do that,, Every single Female vocalist i work with,, and not even close to the best ones’ always Destroy Keys on her own songs ,,,,its actually embarrassing to see and hear somebody do that and not have a record deal,, and to have audience members react the same,, we feel stupid when they say things like Alicia Keys should be singing background for you. Everything being backwards like this is a shame’ and its every gig, It’s not just Keys but almost all these young folks with record deals. Back in the day,, it was almost impossible to walk into a night club & hear someone as good as Aretha,, although i did know one person “Minnie Gardener” in Boston, but it was basically impossible to find,, And if it did happen it wouldn’t be long before a Major label got them off the street fast,,thats how we got people like “Chaka” and Donny Hathaway’ that was the standard,, & if they weren’t great singers they were great writers like Dylan “Carol King & others,, i know i have a sharp tongue & I’m probably not really being fair to Keys but its because at one time like you i thought she had Great Skills as a writer then i heard what was suppose to be her Original but was actually written by someone else.. Then i felt like an ASS, B-U-T if she truly Originally wrote (If i ain’t got you) even if based on something else ‘which like i said before is a truly a skill, then as a writer i give her credit as one of the greats” i hope she did because it would be a goooood example for all young writers to follow and again the true genius of young people would be back in music ,, but Im afraid one day I’m gonna hear some old buried & dead obscure artists release from 25 years ago” same cords just up a whole step nothing different but the Lyrics and be like,,,,, DAM DAM DAM,, foiled again or a Reggae tune exactly like “No One’ Now before i forget our big brother Dylan is gonna have to go back and listen to the Phasing of everybody in his record collection” example Listen to Donny Hathaway’s 1st Album only 26 years old with all that tone & Maturity in his playing & singing’ MIND BLOWING AND SCARY GIFT FROM GOD AND NEVER DUPLICATED TO THIS DAY he was 29 on “Some Day we’ll all be free” (Have U heard KEYS version it is Horrendous as HELL Absolutely Horrible) Totally. As fare as her creating something new. PLEASE – it is Blasphemy” to even put her name in with those People– your young – no older cat would say something like that-i have a friend about 30 years old that use to say De angelo was doing something new,,, so me and another friend of his gave him some homework’ after ripping a new butt hole for em” When he finished it” he came to me on his own and felt stupid as hell & to this day he can’t believe he said the things he said to us or thought and he was pissed and now he listens to nothing but Joni Michelle ‘ Dylan his idols & many more because he didn’t know about the people we grew up on and he’s Black” like me & the other friend” Man E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y back then ‘Green ‘White ‘Purple Black’ just killed everything they did From (Grand Funk Railroad to Sarah Vaughn) U had to wear it out’ or U would be a punch line run off the stage “Alicia Keys” would have been the Joke of the the Century back then. Anyways now he’s on the right page. Like Rappers say THATS KEEPIN IT REAL,, I think U & me should definitely talk more” Remember i aint mad at cha i just have a big Mouth. P-E-A-C-E. OH I DO THIS THING CALLED ‘MUSIC UNDER NY’ My Pipes weren’t on point but good enough to put on Youtube go to Youtube then “Paul Brown NY” U can see the people i work with if in NYC at THE VILLAGE UNDERGROUND or The CAFE WHA or SUGAR BAR Ashford and Simpson’s club the vocalist and musicians mind blowing.
    l

  9. lithe says:

    “Music Under NY”… I’ll have to check it out. I live in the East Village, so I’ll stop by one of these days…

  10. Paul says:

    Thats cool,, you live in the City,, hit my email make sure i know its you so i can let U know
    when I’ll be out there. P-E-A-C-E

  11. […] latest successes of Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele, John Legend, and Alicia Keys also speak to this point. It would seem that the musical DNA of soul music is truly timeless, and is […]

  12. kirsty says:

    hi alcia keys is the best singer eva and who eva dont think that then stay away from me cuz how weva dont think it are mingas

  13. Paul says:

    Kirsky waht iz U tolken bout hunny??? is u alrite gurl? iss go be all rite chile ,just do like da docta say an keep own takin yo pills gurl yuwa be alrite one na deez dayz, ya feelz mi

  14. jeremy penner says:

    alicia keys seems very talented, but the out of tune vocal on no one is just embarrassing. I would not let a track like that leave the studio, much less be released worldwide

  15. smurfette says:

    She “borrows” a lot… the best example I can reference is the song she wrote for Christina Aguilera’s Stripped album, Impossible. Musically and lyrically it is so similar to Ain’t No Way by Carolyn Franklin that I can’t even believe they gave Keys a songwriting credit at all!

  16. satsuki says:

    The truth is, everybody “borrows” from everybody; all of your favorite artists have their major influences. It’s nearly impossible to find a song that is COMPLETELY original. Think about it: how many times have you heard a song on the radio and thought, “Hey, this reminds me of (insert song name here)?” This happens to EVERYONE.

    Point is, there are only so many melodies that can be played, and only so many lyrics that can be written. Some songs are bound to be similar to one another.

  17. Paul says:

    All the music I grew up with was original,, their was no FUNK before James Browns Band, all his stuff sounded nothing like anything before it. The same with Stevie Wonder,, Chicago, EWF, Stealy Dan – Motown The Beatles the list goes on Forever ——— .Its one thing when a song sounds like another B.U.T. when its the same song, same key but with different lyrics??? thats just strait out stealing and NO artistry at all and a ridiculous shame why would anybody defend something someone like that ,thats what I’d like to know?? you have to do your homework– heres a question– What song does Michael Jackson’s ”Billy Jean” sound like??? Heres another one,, what song does Stevie Wonders ”I wish” sound like?????? I’m a songwriter and sometimes i want my songs to sound like something from the past, but i also have songs that sound nothing like anything you,ve heard before. Thats what a Truly Talented and creative Artist does,, (Thats why their called– >>>>>AN ARTIST<<<<<<And Not a thief. U have to understand that youngblood!!

  18. shoga says:

    shes a geniius

  19. gwargk says:

    sigh.. another “genius”. Everybody’s a genius nowadays.
    Most inappropriate over-used word of today. Bach, Mozart, Einstein, Kant… name them. those where geniusses.
    Not some today’s popstar, are you kidding me?
    Ok granted, I do think she has some more depth than say Brittney Spears but she is much overlauded really, getting way too much attention then she deserves. Her chord progressions are off-the-shelve, popular progressions. Such is also the song structure, her singing etc.. it’s not hard to come up with.
    Her popularity lies whithin her looks, the easy listening quality and she just has that talent to know what people like to hear.
    And she’s a great example of good marketing.
    I understand if people like her, and I’m fine with that, but don’t go call her a genius. Come on.

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