Music » CD Reviews

Alicia Keys

Unplugged (J Records)


Can anyone remember the last great live R&B album? If you disqualify Prince bootlegs, the question becomes further vexing, and this CD doesn't help matters any. Why it fails to impress is even harder to discern. After all, pianist Alicia Keys is everything critics have demanded: a skillful, self-sufficient, soul-singer/songwriter, who plays her own instrument and is no industry tool. It's just that hearing these tunes from her first two albums, confidently performed, waxily recorded, and smothered with horns and backing vocals, you can't help but wish it were all a little more exciting as well.

Like the majority of urban-music performances these days, this one is heavy on vamps and virtuosity. Somewhere around the (retitled) cover of Prince's "How Come You Don't Call Me," Keys' listen-to-me runs start to lose their novelty. And having Maroon 5's Adam Levine (who's inexplicably appeared on every urban release in the past six months) sub for Mick Jagger on the Stones' "Wild Horses" doesn't break the ennui. Polished, polite, and even powerful at times -- see Keys' Philly-soul tearjerker "You Don't Know My Name" -- Unplugged is still too short on juice.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.