Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Alicia Keys: Songs in A Minor [J, 2001]
The minor in question is the keys-sweeping Keys, not yet 21, who earns the musty "classically trained" as if it was bequeathed her by Donny Hathaway. Enough song doctors show up in parentheses to make the realist in me wonder just exactly how finished the material she'd begun at 14 was when she signed her deal. But the same realist notes that Brian McKnight gets sole credit for one of the bores that threaten to sink the project midway through, just as Keys does for one of those that buoy it back up at the end. And the grace and grit with which the first half skirts gentility would merit the musty "auspicious debut" regardless. If only Donny Hathaway had been so unassuming. A-