With a single delicate touch, a piano comes to life, quietly at first, and slowly imparts to us a melancholic tone that will linger into the atmosphere as singer Alexis Keegan shapes it into a powerful, jazz-inspired anthem in “What Am I Supposed to Do,” her latest single. As we press on, a playful electric guitar peppers the melody in the keys with a striking confidence that will spread to the pendulous drum track and find its true commander in Keegan’s lush lyrical lashings from behind the microphone, which inarguably hold everything together in the song. “What Am I Supposed to Do” is in many respects a merger of old fashioned swing and new school tonality, mastered in high definition sound as to allow for every textured nuance in the music to receive the star-treatment in the grander scheme of things. It’s a fine addition to her growing discography of melodic gems, and a really intriguing song that I think would appeal to most anyone with a taste for highbrow R&B flavor.
Keegan sounds more in her element in this track than she has in the past, and that’s saying something when we consider how confident a performance she’s given in such songs as “Don’t Need You Now,” “Gospel” and “Heaven.” She’s never sounded inept in the recording studio before, but in this instance she comes across as sure of herself as a seasoned songwriter twice her age would. Her vocal isn’t quite as high in the mix as I would normally like it to be, but it isn’t slighted in favor of emphasizing the instrumental hook in the least. “What Am I Supposed to Do” spotlights the duality in her versatile skillset perhaps better than any of her previously released singles have, and I actually think that it shows off her ability to harmonize with really intimidating melodies quite exquisitely. She hasn’t let me down with her past work, but based on what I’m hearing in this song, I don’t think that she’s finished evolving as a recording artist yet. She’s a singer who is constantly growing into her sound, and that alone makes her a bit of a treasure among her peer group.
Refined, richly textured and sumptuously designed for both casual and serious fans alike, Alexis Keegan’s “What Am I Supposed to Do” is a spellbinder of a single that has definitely roused my attention this spring, and I know that I’m not going to be the only critic to say as much. Keegan’s continued development and stylistic expansion is presented to us in this latest release without overstating the ambitions of the star herself, and in an era rife with egotism and self-centeredness among singers and songwriters alike, she’s dishing out something not only creatively compelling but genuinely refreshing on an artistic level as well. I hope that the jazz components present here are something that she explores further in upcoming projects, but no matter what direction she takes her music in next, I plan on keeping a close eye on her brand just the same.
Photo by Merideth Carlson