Song 171: Alicia Keys, “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart” (2009)


Once in a while, I’ll hear a new song and think, “That is going to be a huge hit!” I don’t think I’ve ever been right, which shows that I would make a terrible label executive (is that still a job?).

One of the songs I had that thought about was “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” a Prince homage that also sounds exactly like Alicia Keys. There’s enough of a resemblance that you can spot the influence, but it’s also her own thing, especially the piano flourishes at the end.  Put simply, I think this song has a killer chorus. It’s straight out of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, in the sense that it’s an R&B song that really goes for it, like Mariah Carey fronting the Revolution.

As one reviewer pointed out, the fact that this song is all about tonight, and not the rest of the narrator’s life, is something of a twist. This epic struggle, the determination to keep going in the face of tragedy, it’s all happening over a single night. I like that a lot; a song about how it seems impossible to get through a sleepless night is much more interesting than yet another song about living the rest of your life without your loved one. The warm synth bed underneath Keys’s vocals is a nice complement to all the bed imagery in the song’s lyrics: just like the bed in the lyrics, the synths provide comfort and warmth that aren’t doing her any good. It all goes down easy, but not for her.

One final thought: “Nobody ever shut it down like you”? Genius.


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