2007 release from the R&B/Pop diva. As I Am is Alicia's most innovative album to date, a collection of music with no boundaries. Influenced by everything from Hip Hop to Soul to Rock to Classical music, As I Am is every bit a sense of rebellion and empowerment. Features collaborations with some of the biggest hit makers in music (Linda Perry, Jack Splash, Mark Batson, Swizz Beats and Kerry Brothers) and includes the first single 'No One.'
By the time this long-awaited album saw its release date, most fans had probably read at least a couple of interviews with Alicia Keys in which she explained that first single, "No One"--a firestorm of a song clearly born of a sore heart and steeped in serious soul-searching, was about her decision to retreat from the obligations of stardom when she found out a loved one was in need of her care. The anecdote sticks not just because it explained the song so well--you can actually hear the pain, commitment, and determination in her sultry voice--but because it gets at what makes the woman behind the music so appealing. There's only one way R&B artists grow to become legends, and it's by drenching the words they sing with feeling (think Gladys Knight, Roberta Flack). The skeptical listener might have had her doubts before As I Am, but there's no mistaking it now: Alicia Keys is well on her way to sharing a category with them. This record radiates not just old-soul maturity, the kind Alicia fans say makes her modern rarity, but real soul. Vintage-leaning hooks and horns grab hold on "Where Do We Go from Here" and an assortment of other songs, but Keys can also get by just fine without them, as she proves on more pop-flavored numbers like "Lesson Learned," with John Mayer, and "Superwoman." The genres may be smearing, she seems to say, but bring them on: she won't shrink back. Her commitment is not to a single style but to what's stirring her soul. Because of it, she's moving R&B, or something like it, from the hips back to the heart. --Tammy La Gorce