By Zoe Fowler
Alicia Keys’ fifth full-length album Girl on Fire is empowering for women and girls all around the world. Her single “Girl on Fire” featuring pop star Nicki Minaj was inspired by an interview that Keys did in which the interviewer described her as being like a girl on fire. That statement was bold enough to spark inspiration for Keys to musically define what it actually means to be a girl on fire. “Looks like a girl, but she’s a flame/ So bright she can burn your eyes/ Better look the other way,” she sings.
Keys wouldn’t be the artist she is without her heart-wrenching power ballads. “One Thing” (co-written with R&B singer Frank Ocean) is one of my favorite songs off the album, simply because it’s familiar and new at the same time. She doesn’t hide her roots with this track. She showcases her talent for writing songs and using music as a platform to tell a compelling story. In her husky voice she croons, “Square face and puppy eyes/ Found out they never lied/ Your old man lived in the sky.”
R&B and neo-soul singer Maxwell, who is known for hits such as “Fortunate” and “Pretty Wings,” features on the track “Fire We Make.” Maxwell and Keys describe the intense emotions two people feel when they are deeply attracted to each other. Their soulful voices make the physical attraction they’re trying to portray obvious and real for listeners.
“Brand New Me” and “Listen to Your Heart” set the overall inspirational tone of the album. On “Brand New Me” Keys is finally standing up to the person who has continuously disappointed her. “Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me/Can’t be bad, I found a brand new kind of free,” she sings, letting the wrong-doer know that she has changed for the better. “Listen to Your Heart” is advising her listeners to follow their heart’s desires.
With this album, comes the rebirth of Keys. Her sound is crisper and her voice is stronger than ever. She is, in fact, what she defines as being a girl on fire.