Most people these days have large, sprawling family trees that include past and current partners and their families, as well as their parents’/guardians’ various couplings and arrangements. The four-person nuclear family is perhaps the median, but perhaps not the mean, of modern family arrangements, but the goal is always the same: To foster a feeling of community and love toward a common goal, for the family’s future generations.
In that spirit, Alicia Keys has dropped “Blended Family (What You Do For Love),” an achingly earnest evaluation of her own personal life, both past and present.
A little bit of personal background, only because it informs the meaning of the song: When Keys first met her now-husband, producer and hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz (né Kasseem Dean), he was still married to Mashonda Tifrere, with whom he has a child. The split between Dean and Tifrere wasn’t amicable at first, and Keys found herself in the role of “the other woman.” But in the years since, the three have come together not just for the sake of Kasseem Dean Jr., Tifrere’s child with Dean, but also Keys’s two children with Dean.
The song is ostensibly addressed to Dean Jr., with Keys letting her voice carry her sentiment over simple, but beautiful in its simplicity, production: “Hey I might not really be your mother / But that don’t mean that I don’t really love ya / And even though I married your father / That’s not the only reason I’m here for ya,” Keys sings to Dean Jr. There’s reference made to her and Dean Sr.’s relationship’s start, but it’s all water under the bridge — “It may not be easy, this blended family, but baby / Cause what you do, what you do, what you do, what you do for love, love,” goes the chorus. And all three adults in the relationships have come together for their blended family, to the point where they vacation together and Keys shouted out Tifrere in her announcement of the song:
We’re loving Keys’s new sonic direction, and love that she’s drawing attention to and inspiration from her personal life in such a lilting, meaningful, and thoroughly modern way. Here’s to more like this off of her upcoming Here, which drops on November 4.