On Nov. 2, singer Alicia Keys released “Golden Child,” a track recorded during the making of her second album, “The Diary of Alicia Keys,” in celebration of its 20th anniversary on Dec. 2. Keys takes us back to true 2000s R&B with soulful vocals and a heavy emphasis on the guitar, giving it an almost Latin vibe. The single is also written and produced by the singer herself.
According to Genius, “Golden Child” originated with a poem that made its release in Keys’ book, “Tears for Water.” In an Instagram post, Keys shared a clip that gives insight as to what prompted her to write it: “When I had my first contract, there was a time when things [were] very, very shaky and bad, and people didn’t quite believe in the music I was doing, and I remember going home and sitting at my piano and writing this poem because I was trying to tell myself this.” Keys released the demo of the song on her website, “AKVault,” in 2013.
“Golden Child” begins with a fuzzy sound reminiscent of an actual vinyl being played on a record player. It’s a subtle sound element that continues throughout the record as a nice touch. Chords from a synthesizer that reminds one of Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” lead into high-pitched picks of the guitar and Keys’ dulcet hums. The bass and percussion drop once she begins singing, taking the listener on a smooth, soulful journey through the wonders of Keys’ timbre. As she begins the pre-chorus, a sparkly chime sound plays, present in almost every early 2000s song. Simultaneously, the backing vocals can’t help but catch your ear as they build to the chorus, where she repeats, “You are a golden child.”
However, the ending leaves room for more to be desired with Keys’ ad-libs. It almost sounds as if she gets tired, making it a bit unsatisfying. One can only wish the track displayed more of Keys’ iconic riffs. Thankfully, the song makes up for it with a guitar solo that takes us to the very end of the song as it fades out.
A lot of songs that are meant to be empowering end up being overly cheesy with no depth, such as “Roar” by Katy Perry, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson. As artist Bo Burnham has said, “I feel a lot of artists … infringe upon … responsibilities that just aren’t theirs, in terms of their audience, maintaining their audience at an emotional level.” However, “Golden Child” aims to remind the listeners how special they are without trying to solve their tough problems with simple answers. As previously mentioned, the track wasn’t even directed towards her fans, but rather, was written to help pull herself out of the slump Keyes was in. The song’s origin makes it feel much more organic and genuine compared to many other “girl boss” hits.
Verdict: “Golden Child” is sure to make you reminisce on the times when you would come home from school and listen to “The Diary of Alicia Keys” on repeat on your iPod Nano. If you’re feeling nostalgic for music from the early 2000s, this record is the one for you.