“Who are you? / Who are you? / You look so familiar…” asks Alicia Keys on her new song “In Common.” I wonder the same of the singer.
When I first heard “In Common,” I was pleasantly surprised by just about everything it has to offer. This is not a traditional Alicia Keys track. Where is the piano-led melody that she sometimes lets guide her like Google Map directions? Where is the powerful vocalist that typically opens tracks slugging and wowing us with her voice at full strength?
Topically, she hits in a way that separates “Common” from the template she’s followed on her biggest records. Yeah, it’s a love song. And yeah, she’s got a ton of those. But this isn’t a “You broke my heart. Why?” song. Nor is it just an “I’m so thankful” song.
Nah. This is an “I’m kind of (like, really) a flawed person, but you love me. Why? Oh, you’re a little left of great, too. Let’s awkwardly dance together” song. But enough of my interpretation. Let’s read the hook’s lines:
“Who wants to love somebody like me? / You wanna love somebody like me? / If you could love somebody like me / You must be messed up, too.”
These are the questions of an insecure person finally feeling at ease with someone else, possibly for the first time. It’s complex. It’s cool. I love it.
She’s breathy on the verses, but very much in control. It’s both fragile and “Fire We Make” sexy. Aside from letting her voice soar in the background vocals towards the end, Power Ballad Alicia is nowhere to be found on “Common.” All these feels gliding over a hip-winding beat.
I’m still having trouble dropping “In Common” in just one genre. Most critics are calling the Illangello production “Latin-infused.” I hear that. But also some light reggae and dance vibes. And of course, there’s that inherent R&B blackness that’s ever-present in Keys’ timbre and delivery.
Let’s just call in good music. A sweet story about an imperfect pair finding themselves in each other weaved with the aforementioned hook and beat lends itself to such a result.
I’ve always been an Alicia Keys fan, but can’t say I’ve been thinking of her much lately in that, “When’s her album coming out? I need that!” way. Until now. I’m looking forward to her upcoming “In Common” performance on Saturday Night Live and the roll-out of her next project, which is hopefully coming sooner than later.