Home Read Classic Album Review: Alicia Keys | The Diary of Alicia Keys

Classic Album Review: Alicia Keys | The Diary of Alicia Keys

The singer-pianist's sophomore set works best when she gets more extroverted.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


You might be asking yourself the same things I did when I saw this album:
1 | Do we really need to hear Alicia Keys’ diary?
2 | Is it even possible for the neo-soul phenom to get more intimate and confessional than she was on first album Songs in A Minor?

Fear not. Despite its self-centred (and self-important) title, The Diary of Alicia Keys is actually a slightly more extroverted affair than her debut — mostly (and ironically) because there seems to be more of a group dynamic on these 13 numbers. Although Keys still penned and produced many of these cuts herself, she appears to have relaxed and loosened the reins enough this time to allow for some healthy collaboration. This new openness is most noticeable on tracks like Heartburn, a juicy little slice of old-school blaxploitation wah-wah funk co-written and produced by Timbaland. But it’s also evident in her slinky update of the Gladys Knight hit If I Were Your Woman and the tense orchestrated hip-hop of Karma.

For those who prefer a second dose of Keys’ earthy piano balladry and low-impact hip-hop, there’s plenty of it on cuts If I Ain’t Got You, So Simple and the title track. In fact, perhaps there’s a little too much of it. After the engaging and upbeat cuts that open the proceedings, this front-loaded disc quickly loses momentum, dissolving into a somewhat samey-sounding set of tinkly pianos and silky smooth melody. Ultimately, Keys’ Diary is nowhere near as intimidating — nor as rewarding — as you might have hoped.