Single Review: Alicia Keys “If I Ain’t Got You”

If I Ain’t Got You
Album: Diary of Alicia Keys
Year: 2004

With the new album came a new marketing strategy. Her marketers have expanded the prodigy angle, but the anti-Britney one (she actually plays the piano, sings, etc) has been phased out. Instead, her marketers are focusing on her artistry. On her official website, its stated “Alicia relates to music much the way Stevie Wonder and Prince have always done, seeing their work as an continuos, ongoing journey rather than a collection of songs for an album.”

The artistry angle, while exaggerated, is closer to the truth and feels less like hype. Otherwise, another public relations push as strong as the first album would’ve resulted in backlash.

“If I Ain’t Got You,” her new single, is a traditional R&B song with a touch of neo-soul.
In it, she reflects that “some people think the physical things define what’s within/I’ve been there before but that life’s a bore.” She lists other extravagant things: diamonds, money, fame, etc. but none of it matters without her man. The topic is nothing new.
But the music arrangement and Alicia Keys’ vocal delivery is stellar, though. The music, comprised of bass, guitar, and drums, has a world weary vibe. Relaxed, honest and contemplative, the music fits the overall point of the song. She also has learned to interpret and put emotion into the lyrics rather than sing them in a technically perfect tone. During the second verse, she sings “some people need three dozen roses/and that’s the only to prove you love them,” she sounds frustrated by idea, as though it’s happened to her before.

Alicia Keys has come a long way from her underwhelming “Songs In A Minor.” However, she has slipped some with “If I Ain’t Got You.” The restless “Dragon Days” or the slinky “Heartburn” are a chance to show off her improved style and would’ve made better singles.

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