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Show & Tell: Alicia Keys – Un-thinkable feat. Drake

December 7, 2009

You play the piano. We get it.

Back in high school when Alicia Keys first came out with “Fallin'” I thought I’d never get sick of her piano-laced urban pop, but album after album she slowly dug herself into a monotonous rut by ditching rawness in pursuit of lacklustre power melodies. Her continued reliance on the “hip-hop Beethoven” shtick makes you think there’s only so much you can do with a piano and a boom bap bassline.

I continued scoffing when I heard Keys’ huge current single “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” from The Element of Freedom. It’s too breathy and insubstantial and, dare I say it, predictable. But when I heard “Unthinkable” my faith in Keys’ prowess was slightly renewed.

The languid production and subdued piano (because, let’s face it, we’re all a little sick of hearing it overpower her) gives the track a more sensual vibe—something that Keys’ should naturally be good at, given her husky voice. Drake’s there too, but not as a rapper. Instead he lends soft, masculine backup adding weight to the track and tempering the hard drums that crop up midway through to the end. His name adds cache, no doubt, but Drake lets Keys shine.

It ends up sounding much more contemporary than a lot of Keys’ previous work. We know she’s a talented singer-songwriter and WE KNOW she plays the piano, but there’s no need to beat us over the head with an overly ambitious (and cliched) piano melody. Keys has a lot to offer musically—much more so than most of her pop counterparts—and “Un-thinkable” shows that she’s capable of growth and sophistication. I’d love to hear it covered by an unexpected indie band. Link after the jump.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink*
    December 7, 2009 4:15 pm

    Wait, so Drake’s actually in that song somewhere? Is he the background vocals? That could be anybody…

    He’s like the Blewish Waldo of the hip-hop world these days.

  2. Anupa permalink*
    December 7, 2009 5:24 pm

    Yeah he is. Apparently he wrote it, you can hear a dude faintly if you turn it up. I`m assuming it`s just the cache of having Drake on a track. Hey if Jay-Z put Drake on a track (Off That) and didn`t let him rap then A. Keys certainly can as well. It`s a good look for him too.

    • Simon permalink*
      December 7, 2009 6:24 pm

      Interesting. I figured he wrote it at least. If I heard it blind I probably would have thought “Oh, Alicia Keys is on a Drake track,” and not the other way ’round.

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