RICK’S PICKS: Alicia Keys: Girl On Fire ( RCA Records ) / Bassists: Bruno Mars, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Steve Mostyn, James “Malay” Ho
The Album: Girl on “low flame” might be more accurate, as Alicia mostly misses the mark on her fifth studio album. Girl On Fire suffers from lazy writing and frequent overproduction, and even Nicki Minaj can”t save the title track which is a mess. The song “Limitedless” is a new low, with lines like “If he be Jack / Then I guess me be Jill / Fell into his arms / Got me head over the hills”. Hell, its title isn’t even a word. Still, there are some standout tunes, such as “Tears Always Win”, where co-writer Bruno Mars leaves his easily-identifiable stamp, the poignant ballad “Not Even The King”, and the Babyface contribution “That’s When I Knew”.
At her best, Alicia keeps her vocal limitations in check and makes keen observations of both herself and the world around her; at her worst she falls into lyrical cliches and borrows from other songs a bit too liberally. If albums like The Diary Of Alicia Keys and MTV Unplugged represent high points in her career, Girl On Fire clearly does not. But Alica Keys on a bad day is still better than most, so go at your own risk on this one. By the way, stick around for 10 seconds after the last track “101” ends, because there’s a little hidden coda (uncredited) with a cool “hallelujah” chorus that’s an album highlight.
The Bassists: Bruno Mars, Babyface, Steve Mostyn and James “Malay” Ho all contribute, all on the second half of the album. They play it simple and lay it down nicely on their respective tracks. The album’s first half is mostly synthy, sampled bass, and though it’s occasionally clunky, tunes like “Listen To Your Heart” and “New Day” are groove-perfect.
Best Tracks: “New Day”, “Tears Always Win”, “That’s When I Knew”
Alicia Keys: Girl On Fire is available at Amazon.com