Archive for Alicia Keys

Best & Worst of 2010, Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by G.K. Reid

Best Singles of 2010 

from 5 – 1


5. Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Slinky, understated funk is the last place I expected James Mercer to flourish, but he’s never sounded better (or, dammit, cooler) than with the not inestimable assistance of Dangermouse here.  His pained falsetto neatly doubling up for both observer and subject, compromise and deep disappointment are evoked in spades. But, most importantly – those handclaps!

 

4. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind, Part II


Keys gives her much-mythologised hometown another anthem, albeit one that cops to the prospect of failure as much as the promise of success, and simultaneously gifts the world with one of the most lush, resplendent vocals in recent memory.

 

3. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You!


There were many joyful, hilarious things about Cee-lo’s (second) breakthrough, aside from the song and video themselves: the initial confusion amongst many that Mr. Gnarls Barkley had apparently changed his name for some reason (‘This guy sounds like that guy who sang that crazy song!’, ad infinitum); the inventive/lazy censoring; the use of ‘fuck you’ as a noun; the X-Factor finalists doing this. Hell, this song even single-handedly restored humour and public fondness to Hollywood’s least-favourite aging starlet! Cee-lo Green is nothing short of a miracle worker. We should all bow before him.

 

2. Kylie Minogue – All the Lovers

A blissful, exultant dancefloor anthem tinged with emotional ambiguity. We’ve been here before with Kylie, sure, but if we’re to assume (with good reason; it’s certainly what she represents to her fans) that she’s motivated by a pursuit for something like purity – or, perhaps more accurately, transcendence -then All the Lovers is arguably the closest she’s come. I mean – shucks – in the gorgeous video, she’s the figurehead of a skyscraper constructed entirely out of interracial omnisexuality. Let’s all just take our clothes off and be friends!

 

1. Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver – Monster

The single greatest thing to happen to music in 2010 was Nicki Minaj’s rip-roaring, bracingly dexterous contribution to this track. I don’t think a star has ever been so violently born, nor a show so emphatically stolen. To this day, having listened to it countless times, I am stunned into rewinding the last three minutes of the song every time. It’s almost enough to make you forget just how phenomenally engineered and replete with choice moments and turns of phrase the rest of the track is. And it’s still only my third favourite song on the album! (Unfortunately it’s difficult to find the seemingly excellent video in decent quality anywhere on the damn internet)

 

 

Some also-rans: Kelis – Acapella; Tinie Tempah – Pass Out; Marina and the Diamonds – Oh No!; Dark Dark Dark – Bright Bright Bright; Example – Kickstarts; Rihanna – Rude Boy; Scissor Sisters – Invisible Light; Patrick Wolf – Time of My Life; Nicole Sherzinger – Poison; Professor Green feat. Ed Drewett – I Need You Tonight; Hot Chip – One Life Stand; Arcade Fire – The Suburbs; Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce – Telephone

 

And with that, I’ll resume whatever it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place.

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91. ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ by Alicia Keys (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 13, 2009 by G.K. Reid

From the off, Alicia Keys bored me rigid. Serving up perfectly accomplished but endlessly dull piano ballads where the lyrics allege emotional turmoil, Keys as a performer remained oddly remote, lacking in either rawness or panache. But I find myself becoming gradually, mildly more interested in her. The starting point was catching a performance she gave of If I Ain’t Got You, on what I believe was the Jonathan Ross show.  Truthfully, the song is hardly a departure from her M.O. but something about this one stuck.  There’s a simplicity to it that actually makes it seem timeless.

Bonus points: It’s tricky for a popstar to express this kind of anti-materialist sentiment without it sounding preachy and hypocritical, or the song collapsing under the weight of it’s own “message”. By singing in that resigned, observational tone and placing the emphasis on the personal, Keys dodges the bullet.