The Rundown: Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire

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  • Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz
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"101"

The two-part "101" starts as a melancholy piano-and-vocals ballad, but thankfully closes on an inspirational note, with massive drums, strings and Alicia Keys wailing "Halleulah, kick in the door, we gonna make it" somewhat randomly. But the Jeff Bhasker production ends the album with the epic, explosive tone you'd expect from an album with this name — much of the record feels intimate and small instead. Alicia doesn't quite live up to the title's promise, but she's refreshed her sound by incorporating a wide range of outside producers and songwriters for the first time (her long-time collaborator Kerry "Krucial" Brothers" is nowhere to be found). Meanwhile, 10 years after her debut, she's somehow managed to improve her singing. Though she doesn't always break new ground here, and there are a few songs that snooze rather than spark, Alicia delivers one of her most consistent, intriguing albums, an impressive feat for a veteran a decade deep in the game.

(Photo: Randy Smith/BET)

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