NEW YORK – Her debut album, "Songs in A Minor," sold more than 6 million copies and snagged Alicia Keys (search) five Grammys. That's a lot to live up to.
But instead of trying to reinvent herself on her sophomore release, "The Diary of Alicia Keys," (search) the 22-year-old singer has made a sultry, timeless disc that shows her talent, not the spewings of a hip-pop hype machine.
On this record, Keys shows nothing but love for traditional R&B and gospel, yet the record is stylistically diverse, displaying an equal talent for contemporary pop and hip-hop. She's studied enough music history to know what she likes.
"Diary" opens with a short composition titled "Harlem's Nocturne," in which Keys takes a piano riff worthy of George Gershwin (search) and eases it into a surging piece of modern hip-hop. As radical a cross-pollination as it is, it proves that anything goes as long as it sounds right.
Less experimental is "You Don't Know My Name," where Keys reprises the soul music of her debut and, of course, the late '60s. The piece is orchestrated with a 1,000 strings, but Keys' restrained vocals are never smothered.
There's plenty to like about this album, especially when Keys plays with funk, as she does on the song, "Dragon Days." Here she bows deeply to Isaac Hayes (search), injecting an element of danger.
Will this album sell 6 million copies, the way "Songs" did? Maybe, but it might take a few years. No worry: Keys has time, because good music never goes out of style.