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Discographically Speaking: Alicia Keys

Alicia KeysAlicia Keys performs at Verizon Center on Thursday night. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

By Sarah Godfrey

Some say Alicia Keys is one of the most talented singer-songwriters of her generation. Others say she's the biggest Prince-biter of her generation. Whether she creates derivative dreck or modern classics is always a subject of debate, but the woman has produced an undeniably impressive, pop culture-shaping string of hits for the better part of a decade.

Keys performs at the Verizon Center Thursday, which means it's time for Click Track to rank her albums -- was she better in the era of B.C. (that's "braids and cornrows") or A.D. (After “Diary”)? Vote in our poll below and read our rankings after the jump.

5. “Unplugged” – 2005

A fairly unremarkable live album, save for the inclusion of "Unbreakable," which finds Keys shouting out celebrity and fictional couples known for their strong bonds and stable relationships -- plus Ike and Tina.

4. “The Element of Freedom” – 2009

Keys' latest has already spawned two big singles: “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” and “Doesn’t Mean Anything.” But there are too many dull moments, including the Beyonce duet “Put It In a Love Song,” which is far too meek for such a powerhouse duo -- one of the biggest pop disappointments in recent memory.

3. “As I Am” – 2007

“Like You’ll Never See Me Again” borrows a little too heavily from the Purple One, “Superwoman” is heavy-handed, even by Keys standards, and “Teenage Love Affair," is more parody than homage, despite the artist's knack for updating the sounds of 50s and 60s soul. The thing that saves "As I Am" is “No One”, and its insane chorus: "Oh oh oh oh OH/oh oh oh oh oh/oh oh oh oh OH oh OH oh OH…” It's the least sing-along-friendly hook since Jamie Foxx's “Blame It," but who didn’t enjoy trying to get it right?

2. “Songs In A Minor” – 2001

The album that introduced the world to a kid from the Bronx who played piano so well that she decided to call herself Keys. The stage surname chosen by little Alicia Augello Cook seemed awfully cocky until she broke out the retro R&B sounds of “Fallin’,” “A Woman’s Worth,” and the Prince cover “How Come You Don’t Call Me.”

1. “The Diary of Alicia Keys” – 2003

Keys refines and defines her neo-retro sound here with girl-group inspired “You Don’t Know My Name,” the wedding reception favorite “If I Ain’t Got You,” and, of course, the piano ballad "Diary." The most entertaining look inside a young woman's journal since "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret."

By Sarah Godfrey  |  March 25, 2010; 11:54 AM ET
Categories:  Discographically speaking  | Tags: Alicia Keys  
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Next: In concert: Jack Ingram

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