In the last few of years, Alexis Keegan has turned out some soul-stirring material ranging from the freewheeling “Gospel” to the holiday harmonies of “It’s Christmas Everywhere” and a rollicking indie folk/pop hit in “Everything,” and this April she submits a lovely slice of R&B in the form of “What Am I Supposed to Do.” This new single brings a little bit of bluesy bass tenacity into Keegan’s sound and throws in a dash of dexterous jazz beats to the mix just to keep things interesting. “What Am I Supposed to Do” arrives at a rather predictable period in pop music history, and one could definitely make the argument that its uncaged vitality and bludgeoning bass strut are exactly what we needed to liven things up this spring.
Keegan doesn’t hold anything back from us in this new song, and from where I sit, her lyrical effort in this track could qualify as her most brooding and intimately designed so far. The faint percussive track that shadows the bassline’s slow but deliberate movements mirrors the pulsating rhythm of a beating heart in the refrain, but the build up to the chorus yields about as much tension as I would expect to encounter on the first leg of a rollercoaster ride. Every element audible to us is contributing to the narrative of the song as a whole, and though the lyrics are always at the center of our attention, they’re certainly not the only sparkling jewel to behold in “What Am I Supposed to Do.”
The smooth transitions between verses are only one example of the fluidity that this single boasts. The master mix is tailored around Keegan’s singing, but it’s also constructed as to create a vacuum-like pull in the bass and scattered guitar parts that greases the wheels for the vocal to sink its biggest hook into us in the chorus. It reminds me a lot of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” but with a decidedly hotter jazz groove underscoring its drum track, though anyone who is familiar with Alexis Keegan’s music will instantly be able to hone in on the original qualities present in the song that keep it from feeling like a throwback to mid-2000’s piano pop and R&B.
If this is just a sampling of what Keegan has in the tank at the moment in preparation for another record, then I cannot wait to hear what she comes up with before the year is out. “What Am I Supposed to Do” is a balladic juggernaut with the panache of a pop song and the intricate facets of an orchestral masterpiece, and it masterfully encapsulates the artist that its composer has become since arriving on the scene years ago. She’s come a long way since her first couple of eyebrow-raising recordings, and I don’t think that there’s much room for debate when it comes to determining if her music is ready for the primetime stage or not. Alexis Keegan has got a song that true blue music fans aren’t going to want to miss out on this April, and it’s making a splash that can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored.
Photo by Merideth Carlson