On ”Girlfriend,” one of her earliest singles, Alicia Keys blatantly ripped off Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s rowdy street anthem from 1995, ”Brooklyn Zoo” — right down to the unladylike line ”It’s enough to make a n—- go crazy. ” By contrast, track 11 on her third effort, As I Am, subtly borrows the organ riff from Wendy Rene’s 1964 song ”After Laughter (Comes Tears)” — the exact cut sampled by the Wu-Tang Clan for ”Tearz,” track 11 of 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Keys may always harbor a fondness for Wu-Tang, but as she’s ascended from R&B upstart to actress-spokesmodel-music diva, all of her varied sensibilities — rap, soul, classical — have folded into a tidier, pop package.
Review Summary: Sadly, her third album is completely phoned in. Funny how a couple of planes, a couple of buildings, and a half-assed war can change things. Back in early 2001, Alicia Keys was just about the hottest ticket in music, right from the top of the charts to all but the most niche critics.
New York City soulstresses born in January a decade apart ('71 and '80, respectively), Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys flex their commercial empowerment in passionate opposition. Yonkers street survivor Blige and Manhattan piano prodigy Keys presently command career-high profiles with voices incapable of unfeeling line readings, though Booker T. & the MGs rather than synthetic New Jack soul should groove both ladies back to the old school, where their voices belong.