mon 22/07/2024

CD: Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire

CD: Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire

There are the familiar anthems, but it's the quieter, more intimate moments that impress the most

Balancing the introspective with the anthemic: Alicia Keys

14 Grammy Awards, over 30 million albums sold, immortalised in song by Bob Dylan. It's hard to believe that Girl On Fire is only Alicia Keys's fifth studio album, such is the extent of her success. The singer-songwriter's previous release, The Element of Freedom, successfully mined the juxtaposition of powerful beats and understated vocals.

And, following the solo piano amuse-bouche of “De Novo Adagio”, Girl On Fire initially looks set to deliver more of the same.

The slow burner “Brand New Me”, the futuristic, cut-up beats and wobbly analogue synths of “When It's All Over”, the warm ambient glow of “Listen To Your Heart” and the hard-hitting dance-floor anthem “New Day” prepare the way for the title song (subtitled "Inferno Version”). Over a monolithic rhythm track, Keys belts out the stadium-sized arrangement with heroic gusto, with guest rapper Nicki Minaj supplying the rapid-fire rhymes.

But after this Keys immediately strips things back to basics with “Fire We Make”, a terrific nu-soul duet featuring Maxwell, with more than a hint of the Isley Brothers in the ever-so-sweet guitar filigree. She then channels Sixties-style Motown in “Tears Always Win” with its churchy organ, guitar stabs and fantastic (and criminally underused) backing vocals. The piano-vocal “Not Even The King”, the acoustic guitar-driven “That's When I Knew” and the popping bassline of “One Thing” are all classic Keys, sung with an enormous depth of feeling.

Introducing a new word into the English language, “Limitedless” sounds like the love child of the Stone Roses and Rihanna, while “101”, one of three tracks penned with Emeli Sandé, threatens to close the album on an extraordinarily downbeat note – until the final surprise as, after a few seconds of silence, Keys comes crashing back in with the final, exultant "Alleluias".

Watch Alicia Keys perform 'GIrl On Fire'

Over a monolithic rhythm track, Keys belts out the stadium-sized arrangement with heroic gusto


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters