It feels like only a few years ago, a fresh-faced girl from Hell’s Kitchen blended old school soul and modern hip-hop to create one of the definitive albums of the last twenty years. Fact is, it was over a decade ago when Songs In A Minor re-wrote the rules of R&B, selling over 13 million copies and earning her five Grammys in the one year. Alicia then backed it up with the arguably superior sequel The Diary of Alicia Keys, gaining her another nine million sales and three Grammys, proving Songs was no fluke.
Third album As I Am may have been a career lowlight (but still received positive reviews), but it delivered her biggest solo hit to date – No One. Shaken by the suggestion that her creative mojo and relevance was floundering, Alicia came back with my personal favourite, The Element of Freedom. Retaining the innovation of her debut but providing a different direction and solid production, it may have not been her biggest seller, but it was an incredible album.
Two Alicia Keys songs have recently surfaced, a hip-hop racket produced by her husband Swizz Beatz called New Day (potential lead single / train wreck) and the gorgeous and very Alicia-esque A Place of My Own, which she performs below and I implore you to watch.
In a lengthy time (over a decade), Alicia Keys has created masterpiece after masterpiece and news of another album is exciting enough for me to waste half my weekend to concoct the Top 5 Alicia Keys Songs.
5. How Come You Don’t Call Me (Songs in A Minor – 2001)
Alicia Keys is no stranger to covers. Her duet with Adam Levine, a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, is embarrassingly good and if it wasn’t a duet, would be placed much higher. This Prince re-do flows so naturally, it doesn’t even sound like it was recorded in a studio. Alicia’s vocals are as powerful one minute as they are vulnerable the next, making this yet another not so happy ending anthem.
4. If I Ain’t Got You (The Diary of Alicia Keys – 2003)
There are a few certainties on reality singing competitions. A stupid has-been singer who has zero relevance will annoy everyone. Someone who can’t sing for shit but has a heartfelt history will get further than they deserve. Somebody will sing If I Ain’t Got You. Why? It is an emotional apocalypse, a song that so perfectly sums up lost love that almost anyone could relate.
3. A Woman’s Worth (Songs in A Minor – 2001)
It could be the smoking hot beat, it could be the 60s girl group repeated lines, it could be her almost pornographically sexy vocals, or it could just be that it makes me feel like a strong, independent woman…A Woman’s Worth just added to the love and respect I developed for Alicia after hearing Fallin‘.
2. Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart (The Element of Freedom – 2009)
Many people didn’t take to The Element of Freedom. While it’s her most popular album to date in the UK, the atmospheric and epicly produced corker didn’t fare so well in the US. Fuck ‘em. The peak of this delectable slice of soul/R&B album was this instant classic and modern masterpiece ballad, with thumping percussion and tortured lyrics, “Anybody could’ve told you right from the start it’s ’bout to fall apart, so rather than hold on to a broken dream, I’ll just hold on to love.” That’s exactly what I tell myself after my third bottle of red every night.
1. Fallin’ (Songs in A Minor -2001)
The song that introduced the world to the talent. Showing teens that classical was cool and proving to anyone above 30 that R&B can be credible, Miss Keys creates her own genre, introduces herself as one of the most exciting American artists in history and goes to no.1 on the US charts.