I’m absolutely in love with Alicia Keys. I had to get that out of the way.
Keys’ 2016 album, “Here,” is a brutally honest statement on love in the modern world. Her artistry has evolved a long way since her debut album, “Songs in A minor,” but her messages about love have always stayed consistent.
Keys has been seen in recent years championing women with her “no makeup” look that has inspired so many to be natural and live “as they are.” Breaking free of insecurities and expectations from others is what she has embodied for so long now. So when her latest album came around, it only made sense that the cover featured her with her wild, curly hair stretching across a blank gray background and flowing down past her bare face and shoulders.
The music on the album featured the same kind of natural style.
Keys explores the love—and lack thereof—that she has experienced in her life: from her family in her formative years, to relationships in her youth, to her husband and children in the present. This love story is a discussion about the mistakes made for and by love, ultimately ending with “Holy War,” which gives the message that no matter what, we should love unconditionally to heal one another rather than put up barriers. We must love ourselves first so that we are able to spread love to others.
"Here" is a fight against what love has devolved into in a society fueled by instant gratification rather than "working on it." Against abusing and consuming one another for our own pleasure. Against losing the meaning of love altogether.
What sets this album apart from others is its cohesion. Though vignette, it is one story tied together by a single place, New York.
Accompanying the album was the short film, “The Gospel.” It is 22 minutes that features many of the songs on the album playing in the background of candid scenes depicting life and love in the city.
Even then, the themes presented transcend any place, but with a great emphasis on the modern day.
I grew up listening to Alicia Keys in the backseat of my mom’s Acura, her lyrics repeating in my head as I walked the halls of my elementary school, a time when music was just pleasant noise. I never considered the impact that lyrics would have on me later on.
A nostalgia trip brought me back to Ms. Keys at a time when “Here” was available and simply made sense. Her message of self-acceptance through the loss and discovery of love inspired me to go on my own journey of self-discovery and acceptance after experiencing the sting that love can have when it disappears.