Single Review: Alicia Keys “Karma”

Album: The Diary of Alicia Keys
Year: 2004

Alicia Keys will release her book “Tears for Water” this month. It will have unreleased song lyrics and poetry in it as a diary of her time before she obtained a record deal. She will also be in a movie about Phillipa Schulyer, a pianist and later a journalist who died in a plane crash in 1967, according to UK Telegraph Magazine.

First, is any of this really necessary? The book makes sense. It’s obligatory to release a book nowadays even if the entertainer does fit not the singer-songwriter mold. However, it should stop at acting. Books can be ignored and quickly forgotten. Wooden acting combined with a poor script will destroy a career faster than being caught lip-synching on SNL. Career longetivity is in the original product (in Alicia Keys’ case, her albums), not the merchandising.

“Karma,” the third single off her second album, features lush orchestration alongside a slick R&B beat. In the single, she tells her ex-boyfriend “what goes around comes back around” as he tries to get back together with her.

In the first verse, she gives him the reasons why he broke up with her (“weren’t you the one that said/that you don’t want me anymore/and how you need your space/and give the keys back to your door”). At the time, she was willing to do anything to get him to stay. But now that he’s returned, she’s rattled and isn’t sure what to do. (“Now you, talkin’ bout a family
Now you, sayin’ I complete your dream/Now you, sayin’ I’m your everything/You confusin’ me”). She warns him “don’t play with me.” Keys delivers the lyric with such despair, she creates an underlying vulnerability to the single. She’s not as strong as she appears and wants to be.

The vulnerability also adds to the bitterness she feels in the chorus (“Now who’s cryin’, desirin’ to come back to me/what goes around comes around/what goes up must come down”).

In the second verse, she tells about all the times she wondered where he was and believed the lies he told her (“And when you came home, you’d always have some sorry excuse/And explainin’ to me, like I’m just some kinda fool”). She resents him for being selfish (“I sacrifice the things I want to and do things for you/But when it’s time to do for me, you never come through”).

In the third verse, she reveals she suspected him of cheating but she brushed it off (“Night after night/knowin’ something was goin’ on/wasn’t home before me/you was, you was gone”). Finally, she sings “No need to hose me fool/ cause I’m over you.”

The violin, however, is the standout of the single. Unfortunately in live performances, Keys has rearranged it to be some sort of rock single and it doesn’t work. The classic, soulful sound of the violin gives the single its center.


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