Home Celebrity Alicia Keys New Music: The Good, The Bad, and the Sampled

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:




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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
4 replies to this post
  1. I Love Alicia, but I am disappointed to hear hip hop beat tracks from a true musician who is so talented on a piano, and at writing real “songs” with chord progressions and bridges and thoughtful notes, in expressive “keys.”
    Perhaps she will put out some new songs not created on a beat box rhythm soon.. At least that is my opinion.

  2. Love the “King” song and video. New Day is not annoying. It’s got a good beat, very reggaeish.
    However, I find her lyrics lacking, so I don’t know if she collaborates with others….but I think she can go deeper with her lyrics. The music is just fine.

  3. @Sonya…I agree with EVERYTHING you said…New Day & GOF are catchy, upbeat, positive songs & Not Even The King is a simple, beautiful, love song…EVERYBODY in the music industry uses samples of other songs…I really don’t understand the “harsh” criticism…Alicia is a true artist & even on her “off” days, she’s better than most!!! Why can some other famous artist can borrow, sample, steal & pretty much rehash the same song/sound & they’re thought of as a genius/the best thing since sliced bread, but Alicia is lazy?!?!

  4. “New Day” is not annoying. I love everything abouot that song, including the singer. As far as “Girl on Fire”, I am so sick of hearing about Hunger Games and Katniss in relation to it. Alicia has already stated her song has nothing to do with that so why can’t people just let it go? I wanted to see Hunger Games but after all these comparisons and and accusations, I’m really not that interested anymore and to even suggest that Alicia might be lazy about anything is really stretching it.

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