Track Review: Alicia Keys, ‘Holy War’
Alicia Keys continues to expand beyond her roots on “Holy War,” the second confirmed song from her upcoming album, Here.
With each album, R&B singer/songwriter Alicia Keys continues to change. Likely, Keys would characterize it as evolution. Interestingly, her evolution has seemingly wandered farther and farther away from R&B every time. While little is known about the latest album Here beyond single “Blended Family” and latest single “Holy War,” both suggest Keys is aiming for more socially-conscious themes as well as moving beyond R&B. In one respect, it does show growth, while in another, it’s quite a departure from Alicia Keys of the past.
From the start, “Holy War” sounds different from previous Alicia Keys songs. She delivers soulful vocals, which help to balance the different sound of the record. A socially-conscious sound is evidenced from the start (the first verse):
“If war is holy and sex is obscene / then we got it twisted in this lucid dream / baptized in boundaries, schooled in sin / divided by difference, sexuality and skin”
The lyrics clearly lacks the more commercial, R&B-sound of her past work. Positively, the subject matter is important – relevant in the bigger scheme of things. For years, she has been evolving, as aforementioned. The cons for Keys are what the success rate of this change means for fans who still long for “Fallin’,” “You Don’t Know My Name,” or “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Keys’ vocals are yearning and expressive on the chorus, if coarse. The chorus is catchier than the rest of song, expectedly, but not radio-ready. Regardless, it sums up Keys’ meaningful message:
“Maybe we should love somebody / maybe we could care a little more / maybe we should love somebody / instead of polishing the bombs of holy war.”
Ultimately, “Holy War” is a meaningful song that aims bigger than many songs on the radio. Alicia Keys definitely deserves credit for this. This won’t be everybody cup of tea, however. Socially, it’s a superb statement. Commercially, unfortunately, it’s not nearly as brilliant. Likely, Keys could care less about how it resonates commercially at this point.