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Album Review

Alicia Keys has had a good decade. Her piano-based brand of pop R&B has propelled sales of 30 million albums worldwide since her 2001 debut. Add 12 Grammy awards, and in the space of eight years, you've got a career most lifetime artists can't match. Such consistent performance throughout the '00s, in fact, earned Alicia the No. 5 spot on Billboard's Artists of the Decade list.

Her fourth studio album, The Element of Freedom, follows familiar paths as she ruminates on matters of the heart. "There's a feeling theme," Alicia told MTV. "And I think somewhere in there, there's a balance. It's like one side is strong and one side is vulnerable. … It has this kind of strong, edgy feel. But it's also intimate and vulnerable and delicate."

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

"Wait Til You See My Smile" counsels prayer during disorienting times ("Sometimes in your life you don't see straight/Pray to Him, and He will show"). "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" also mentions street preachers who "pray to God."

"That's How Strong My Love Is" refers to being "heaven bound" and vows faithfulness ("You'll always have a hand/I'll be the woman you need/ … Through the deepest waters/I won't let you drown"). Similar promises show up on "Distance and Time." "How It Feels to Fly" compares love's elevating essence to soaring like a bird.

"Doesn't Mean Anything" suggests material things can't substitute for love ("I had it all/But it doesn't mean anything/Since you're gone"). "Put It in a Love Song" demands that a man prove his sincere intent before a woman commits to him. On "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart," Alicia relinquishes her hope for reconciliation with a former flame, but not her hope for love in the future. …

Objectionable Content

Unfortunately, that song fondly recalls the effects of an ex's touch ("I could still feel you in my bed/Near me/Touch me/Feel me … You made my body feel heaven bound"). Likewise, heady emotions ("I know you were sent to me/This is exactly how it should feel/When it's meant to be/ … We should do it right now") propel a woman toward a sexual encounter on "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)". "This Bed" finds a woman suggestively pining for a man who's left her ("These king-size sheets/Need more than just a queen/In between them").

On "Love Is My Disease," Alicia's identity is unhealthily bound to the object of her affection ("When you're gone it feels like/My whole world is gone with you/I thought love would be my cure/But now it's my disease."). Sex—more specifically, the lack thereof—is implied near that song's conclusion ("Waking up drenched in a cold sweat/Lying here longing for you").

"Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" briefly alludes to prostitutes walking New York City's streets. "Love Is Blind" and "That's How Strong My Love Is" minimize friends' concerns about questionable relationships.

Summary Advisory

Alicia Keys is a true believer when it comes to romance. Even in disappointment, she's able to envision the possibility of new love somewhere down the road. That admirably optimistic outlook keeps her from wallowing in despair on Freedom's breakup songs. Add in repeated references to fidelity, prayer and eternity, and it's obvious that she longs to commit wholeheartedly to someone who reciprocates her passion.

In addition to giving her heart and soul, unfortunately, being in love also means giving her body—apart from any clear references to marriage. For Alicia, it seems a physical connection with the men she loves is a given … and something she yearns to experience again when the latest man of her dreams inevitably exits her life.

Plot Summary

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Discussion Topics

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Episode Reviews



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Debuted at No. 2 with strong sales numbers: 417,000 units its first week.

Record Label





December 15, 2009

On Video

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

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