Since Alicia Keys' 2001 debut album, Songs in A Minor, was ever so slightly overpraised, expectations for her second album, 2003's The Diary of Alicia Keys, were ever so slightly too high. Songs in A Minor not only kicked off a wave of ambitious new neo-soul songsters, it fit neatly into the movement of ambitious yet classicist new female singer/songwriters that ranged from the worldbeat-inflected pop of Nelly Furtado to the jazzy Norah Jones, whose success may not have been possible if Keys hadn't laid the groundwork with such soulful work as her hit "Fallin'." Such success at such a young age, even if deserved, can be too much too soon, since young songwriters showered with praise and riches may find it hard to see the world outside of their own cocoon. The very title of The Diary of Alicia Keys -- at once disarmingly simple and self-important -- suggests that Keys, like Furtado, took her stardom a little too seriously and felt compelled to present her worldview unfiltered, dispensing with artistic ambiguities and leaving each song as a portrait of Alicia Keys, the woman as a young artist. As she somewhat bafflingly says in her liner notes, "these songs are like my daily entrees," which likely means that these were indeed intended to play like unedited entries in a journal, a goal that she's fulfilled quite successfully, even if it does mean that the album often plays as a diary, leaving listeners in the role of observers instead of seeing themselves in the songs. This was a problem on Furtado's nearly simultaneously released Folklore, but Keys trumps her peer in one key way -- musically, this is a seamless piece of work, a sultry slow groove that emphasizes her breathy, seductive voice and lush soulfulness. Tonally, this is ideal late-night romantic music, even when the tempos are kicked up a notch as on the blaxploitation-fueled "Heartburn," yet beneath that sensuous surface there is some crafty, complex musicality, particularly in how Keys blurs lines between classic soul, modern rhythms, jazz, pop melodies, and singer/songwriter sensibility.