Album: Alicia Keys

Unplugged, J Records
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The Independent Culture

That Alicia Keys' brand of lush diva-soul is mainly a girl thing is tellingly illustrated by the audience responses during a song about her desire to find a "real man", whatever that is. "Any real men out there?" she asks, getting a few half-hearted mumbles in reply; you can all but see the guys staring at their shoes, daydreaming about iPod playlists and Sat-Nav. Then she asks whether there are any "real women" out there, and the shrieks and whoops would freeze a Chippendale's blood. No surprise, then, that this live set is heavy on the hard-done-by-woman side of her catalogue - songs like "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore?", "If I Ain't Got You" and "Woman's Worth". Testosterone levels are boosted late on by the arrival of Common, Mos Def and Damian Marley for the finale of "Love It or Leave It Alone" and "Welcome to Jamrock", but an album containing a track called "Diary" isn't really aimed at the boys. As far as her reviving MTV's Unplugged brand goes, however, this seems to stretch the term beyond any meaningful point. OK, she plays an acoustic piano, but there's electric guitar, bass and keyboards used here, and with the strings, horns and bevy of backing vocalists liberally lathered over several tracks, it strikes me as comprehensively plugged in.

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