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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

From Pop to Neo-Soul, Alicia Keys Impresses

June 24, 2001|ROBERT HILBURN

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ALICIA KEYS

"Songs in A Minor"

J

If this debut arrived as a demo on a label president's desk, chances are there'd be so much excitement that the label head would send the entire A&R team in search of the person responsible for the music. But they'd be wasting their time. Clive Davis, the sharp-eared industry legend whose discoveries include Janis Joplin and Whitney Houston, has beaten them to Keys, a singer-songwriter-pianist of immense potential.

The reason for all the excitement is the 20-year-old New Yorker's remarkable range. She moves convincingly in the album (due in stores Tuesday) from the Janet Jackson school of youthful Top 40 attitude in "Girlfriend" to the funky sensuality of Prince's "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore" to the neo-soul vitality of Macy Gray and Jill Scott ("Fallin"').

Keys seems so adept at the different styles (as well as some less essential strains) that the album has the feel of a sampler--you don't know which style reflects her true passion. Even if "Songs" doesn't spell out where she's headed, it makes a convincing case that's she's going far--in both a commercial and creative sense.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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