Music by Committee

I got sucked in. I bought the new Alicia Keys album. What a colossal mistake, given my tastes in music (not for anyone else, possibly).

Back in the “old days” it was common to love a “single”, then rush out for the “LP”. Tons of LP’s were flogged, replete with disposable filler, running entirely on the promise of one great cut. The advent of album-oriented radio alleviated this dynamic considerably, but not entirely.

I was vaguely aware of Alicia Keys from (I think) one or two popular radio cuts. It sounded like heartfelt, if not entirely original, ear candy. What elevated my perception of Alicia considerably was Bob Dylan’s penning a song about her. I figured if she was “real” enough for Bob, there must really be something to her. That impression was enhanced by a YouTube video I saw of her performing a tune, the rather strangely titled, ‘Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down’.

Simply put, I was blown away. (I also, somewhat naively, assumed this was an Alicia Keys original.)¬†Part of my appreciation of the tune was that it paid obvious homage to a Billy Joel offering I’ve always thought of as reflecting the best of pop songwriting, ‘New York State of Mind’.

Well, turns out that tune is elevated further on her CD by the total schlock that surrounds it; a pile of little tune-lets that sound suspiciously like Janet Jackson out-takes. They make Bryan Adams’ perpetually adolescent warbling sound like Voltaire.

How do expensively-produced, lush sounding recordings devoid of any artistic merit happen? One clue is that the CD lists, count ‘em, ¬†four Executive Producers, including Ms. Keys. Ah, well, if camels are horses designed by committee, CD’s with this much executive management are just about guaranteed to crank out disposable crapola that might even make Elton John cringe. Caveat Emptor.

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