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The Diary of Alicia Keys

Release Date: 
Alicia Keys
Star Rating: 
7 out of 10
There’s long been something uncomfortably Fame about Alicia Keys. The feeling that she’s always wanted to be a big star (and gosh darn it, world, nothing’s gonna stop her!) invests her songs with pretension and corniness. But talent and passion bail her out on her frequently stunning, if far from flawless, second album. The Timbaland-produced “Heartburn” is the jaw-dropper here, a lively, swaggering, funk thumper that never strikes a false note. The same cannot be said for “You Don’t Know My Name,” a string-laden ’70s-soul ballad that’s undone by Keys’ cringe-evincing spoken-word interlude. But she can sing and she knows it, smartly opting not to dress up her soulful pipes with too much studio goop. Keys’ self-conscious striving for greatness feels awkward at times, but with so many artists content with mediocrity, we won’t complain too loudly.