Track Review: Alicia Keys ft. A$AP Rocky, ‘Blended Family’
R&B singer/songwriter Alicia Keys comes from an honest place on personal new single “Blended Family” featuring A$AP Rocky.
Alicia Keys never seems to be in a rush to release a new album. Early in her career, the gap was every two years. It should be noted, however, there was a four-year gap between The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003) and As I Am (2007). Sure, she dropped Unplugged in between (2005), but technically, studio albums are where the “meat” comes from. Keys’ new album, HERE arrives four years after the Grammy-winning Girl Is On Fire.
Interestingly, Keys’ has released a number of singles between Girl On Fire and HERE: “28 Thousand Days,” “In Common,” and “Hallelujah.” Despite this, there isn’t confirmation that any of the three singles make the cut on HERE. What we do know is that her latest single, “Blended Family (What You Do for Love)” makes the cut. She receives an assist from A$AP Rocky, certainly an unexpected, unlikely combination.
The results are interesting. “Blended Family” is well produced, seamlessly blending pop and R&B. This fusion is commonplace in 2016, as R&B in itself struggles to keep commercial footing. Keys has been incorporating pop since the unofficial death of the neo-soul movement, around third studio effort As I Am. In that sense, the guitars and light touches of piano are successful through and through. The beat, while dusty and soulful in an old-school hip-hop idiom, has enough neutrality to play to the pop base.
The songwriting is also respectable, coming from an authentic place.
“Hey I might not really be your mother / that don’t mean that I don’t really love ya / and even though I married your father / that’s not the only reason I’m here for ya.”
Clearly, Keys is referencing her own family with Swizz Beatz, which is blended because he already had kids when they married. This is a personal touch, something that continues throughout the course of the song. On the second verse, it gets “really” real:
“I know it started with a little drama / I hate you had to read it in the paper/ but everything’s alright with me and ya Mama / baby everybody here you know adores ya.”
This references the issues with Mashonda – Swizz’s ex – and Keys. Keys doesn’t go into detail, but the ends is that things have been worked out. Hence, “Blended Family” is positive. The chorus highlights this:
“That’s what you do, what you do, what you do / what you do for love / ‘cause there’s ain’t nothing, there ain’t nothing / their ain’t nothing I won’t do for us / It may not be easy / this blend family, but baby / that’s what you do, what you do, what you do / what you do for love.”
While A$AP Rocky doesn’t “knock it out of the park” on his verse, he does provide insight into the blended family.
A first listen to “Blended Family (What You Do for Love)” may very well leave the listener underwhelmed. While this is a notable topic, it’s not exactly commercial pop fare. Likely, Keys could care less about commercial sensibilities, particularly when the message is important and filled with prudence and depth. The song itself is imperfect, but definitely has its fair share of redeeming qualities.