Alicia Keys is getting ready to release a new album, so new music from it is dribbling out. It’s the good, the bad, and the sampled. The first track that appeared was called “New Day” and it’s very annoying. “New Day” has an insistent mechanical drum from a marching band, and not much of an idea lyrically. Yes, it is a new day. Every day. The song is designed to be performed live, not listened to at home. Or god forbid in earphones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-FEKPZ_Yy0&feature=relmfu
Next, on September 4th, Keys posted “Girl on Fire,” the title track from her November album. The song already has its detractors. One of them won’t be the estate of Leon Carr, the late composer of Eddie Holman’s wonderful 1969 classic “Hey There Lonely Girl.” Maybe Alicia is giving a nod to an old standard, but she’s sampled a little of “Lonely Girl” in “Girl on Fire.” Ka-ching for the estate of Leon Carr and partner Earl Shuman.
Another issue with the song: Katniss, the central character of “The Hunger Games,” is known as “the girl on fire.” An independent Los Angeles singer songwriter called Arshad posted a song to YouTube with that name last January: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRSvoKoU3kk
Now we have “Not Even the King.” This is a song. This is what Alicia Keys is good at. Even though “King” recalls her best original piece so far, “If I Ain’t Got You,” it’s still catchy, thoughtful, and original (I hope, I don’t think there are any samples per se). It’s written with hot-as-a-pistol UK artist Emeli Sande. Check out her album, “Our Version of Events,” released in June by Virgin in their hide-the-music program.
Keys is an astute sampler. Her hit, “Empire State of Mind” was based on “Love on a Two Way Street.” An older hit, “You Don’t Know My Name” came from a song from The Main Ingredient. Her weaving in of old R&B songs into her own music–which she’s quite capable of writing–is either an homage or is lazy, depending on your opinion.
As for “Hey There Lonely Girl”: Carr wrote it with Earl Shuman. But this isn’t the first time he’s been paid a tribute, so to speak. In 1953, Carr had a hit he wrote with our recently departed pal, Hal David. Theresa Brewer had a big hit with it. This was waaaay before the Burt Bacharach years. Its name? “Bell Bottom Blues.” Of course, a dozen years later, Eric Clapton wrote his own song with that name.
There’s nothing new, kids. Not anymore.
Hey There Lonely Girl:
Bell Bottom Blues: