The R&B baton has been passed to Alicia Keys while Beyoncé works on her next game-changing masterpiece and she clearly means business. I thought buzz single "New Day" was a minor triumph but "Girl On Fire" is some next level shit. Released in three different formats (pared-back ballad, mid-tempo pop song and urban radio-friendly club banger), the Jeff Bhasker/Salaam Remi-produced anthem should usher in another record-breaking era for Alicia. It's that good.
I was completely obsessed with AK's last album but it lacked a killer lead single like "Fallin'" or "No One". That situation has been remedied. "Girl On Fire" has drawn criticism for dumbing down Alicia's sound but I think that's ridiculous. Sure, the song is a calculated attempt to win back the kids. So what? The woman is 31 years old. She should be making commercial music. If the poor bitch came back with a power ballad, the same critics would be whinging about her churning out the same old thing.
What I love about "Girl On Fire" - apart from the goosebump-inducing vocal, flawless production and haunting chorus - is the fact that it lifts your generic urban-pop hit from the gutter and transforms it into art. Take the Inferno version (below). It sounds like a slick hip-hop revision "Empire State Of Mind (Part 2)" and boasts the best rap Nicki Minaj has delivered since "Monster". Alicia's similarly titled album is now my most eagerly-awaited of 2012. Watch this explode.