Alicia Keys; Kelis
Self-contained female performers have always been a rarity in R&B, so when one comes along, overreaction is perhaps inevitable. In 2001 plenty of those who heard Alicia Keys were so knocked out by the preternaturally poised nineteen-year-old pianist that they failed to notice that much of the music from her Songs in A Minor was, well, minor. Minus the hype, her second album reveals her weakness -- too many vamps that are overly dependent on her keyboard chops.
But the entries in this Diary also include a few classic tunes missing from her Grammy-winning debut. For one of them, Keys has to swipe the melody from Burt Bacharach's "Walk On By" -- which she gives a good home, fattening it up with gospel hollers and palpable longing. "If I Ain't Got You" climbs its ascending melody straight into Philly soul heaven. The centerpiece, though, is "You Don't Know My Name," a fantasy aimed straight at every unrequited lover. The tune eavesdrops on a phone call between Keys, "the waitress from the coffeehouse," and a customer with whom she's smitten.
Kelis, meanwhile, seems to be the sort of performer that Keys's success was a reaction against. A singer of average technical gifts, Kelis has a bio that reads like that of any number of R&B vixens hoping for a little Neptunes magic. But not only does she push the production duo's future funk further than anyone else, the Harlem-born wild child also inspires greatness in her other collaborators, including Rockwilder and Raphael Saadiq, on her third album, Tasty. Over the wildly oscillating synth-bass of "Milkshake," she taunts the boys: "They lose their minds/The way I whine." A full taste of Tasty proves that's no idle boast.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.