The Element of Freedom
Wed, Dec 23, 2009 (2:22 p.m.)
The one musical constant on this collection from R&B queeen Alicia Keys is her pretty, if sometimes inconsequential, piano twinkling, at its best on “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Otherwise, The Element of Freedom never rests on its laurels: Songs touch on deep Stevie Wonder funk (“Love Is Blind”), glossy Prince synth-funk (“This Bed”) and breathy ’90s soul-pop (“Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”).
The album isn’t overproduced or digitally enhanced to death. “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” is a sultry, sleek bit of neo-soul, while Keys’ vocal turn on “Love Is My Disease” is raw and affecting. The only blemish is Beyoncé duet “Put It in a Love Song”; lyrical clichés about texts and cell phones immediately render it dated—which stands out on an otherwise classy effort.