Backstage with Alicia Keys

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – July 07, 2018

AliciaKeys

Alicia Augello Cook (born January 25, 1981), known professionally as Alicia Keys, is an American singer-songwriter. A classically-trained pianist, Keys was composing songs by age 12. She was signed at 15 years old by Columbia Records, and then, after disputes with the label, by Arista Records. Her debut album, Songs in A Minor, was released with J Records in 2001. Praised for Keys’ musical talents and creative control, Songs in A Minor was critically and commercially successful, producing her first Billboard Hot 100 number-one single “Fallin'” and selling over 12 million copies worldwide. Songs in A Minor earned Keys five Grammy Awards in 2002. Her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), was also a critical and commercial success, spawning successful singles “You Don’t Know My Name”, “If I Ain’t Got You” and “Diary”, and selling eight million copies worldwide.[1] The album garnered her an additional four Grammy Awards.[2] Her duet song “My Boo” with Usher became her second number-one single in 2004. Keys released her first live album, Unplugged (2005), and became the first female to have an MTV Unplugged album debut at number one.

Keys has received numerous accolades throughout her career, including 15 competitive Grammy Awards, 17 NAACP Image Awards, 12 ASCAP Awards, and awards from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and National Music Publishers Association. She has sold over 35 million albums and 30 million singles worldwide. Considered a musical icon, Keys was named by Billboard the top R&B artist of the 2000s decade and placed her number 10 on their list of Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years. VH1 also included her on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and 100 Greatest Women in Music lists, while Time have named her in their 100 list of most influential people in 2005 and 2017. Keys is also known for her humanitarian work, philanthropy and activism, and has received accolades for such work. Keys co-founded and is the Global Ambassador of the nonprofit HIV/AIDS-fighting organization Keep a Child Alive.

Early life

Alicia Augello Cook was born on January 25, 1981, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City’s Manhattan borough.[3][4] She is the only child of Teresa (Augello), a paralegal and part-time actress, and one of three children of Craig Cook, a flight attendant.[5][6][7] Keys’ father is African American and her mother is of Sicilian (Sciacca) and either Scottish or Irish descent.[8][9] Named after her Puerto Rican godmother,[10] Keys expressed that she was comfortable with her multiracial heritage because she felt she was able to “relate to different cultures”.[3][11] Keys’ father left when she was two and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell’s Kitchen.[12] Keys said her parents never had a relationship, and her father was not in her life.[13] Although she did not like to speak about her father in order to not feed stereotypes, Keys remarked in 2001: “I’m not in contact with him. That’s fine. When I was younger, I minded about that. [It] made me angry. But it helped show me what a strong woman my mother was, and made me want to be strong like her. Probably, it was better for me this way.”[3] Keys and her mother lived in a one-room apartment.[12] Her mother often worked three jobs to provide for Keys, who “learned how to survive” from her mother’s example of tenacity and self-reliance.[14][12]

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From a young age, Keys struggled with self-esteem issues, “hiding” little by little when her differences made her vulnerable to judgement and later uninvited sexual attention.[16][17][18] Living in the rough neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen,[13][12] she was, from an early age, regularly exposed to street violence, drugs, prostitution, and subjected to sexual propositions in the sex trade- and crime-riddled area.[18][19][20] “I saw a variety of people growing up, and lifestyles, lows and highs. I think it makes you realise right away what you want and what you don’t want”, Keys said.[21] Keys recalled feeling fearful early on of the “animal instinct” she witnessed, and eventually feeling “high” due to recurrent harassment.[16][22] Her experiences in the streets had led her to carry a homemade knife for protection.[23][24] She became very wary,[25][24] emotionally guarded, and she began wearing gender-neutral clothing and what would become her trademark cornrows.[27] Keys explained that she is grateful for growing up where she did as it prepared her for the parallels in the music industry, particularly as she was a teenager starting out; she could maintain a particular focus and not derail herself.[28][18] She credits her “tough” mother for anchoring her on a right path as opposed to many people she knew who ended up on the wrong path and in jail. Keys attributed her unusual maturity as a young girl to her mother, who depended on her to be responsible while she worked to provide for them and give Keys as many opportunities as possible.[25][24]

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Keys enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12, where she took music, dance, and theater classes and majored in choir.[5][18] She became an accomplished pianist, and after her classical music teacher had nothing left to teach her, she began studying jazz at age 14.[34][36]

Keys spent more time in Harlem during her teenage years. She connected with the cultural and racial diversity in the neighborhood, where she expanded upon her musical exploration, and her character was also solidified. “Harlem raised me in a lot of ways,” Keys remarked. “[It] taught me how to think fast, how to play the game…taught me leadership, how to get out of bad situations when you need to, how to hold my own.”[31][3] During this period, she met her friend and future collaborator Kerry Brothers Jr.[14][31]

2002: Songs in A Minor

Keys’ first studio album Songs in A Minor was released in June 2001, to critical acclaim.[46][47][48] Musically, it incorporated classical piano in an R&B, soul and jazz album.

Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 236,000 units, it went on to sell over 6.2 million copies in the United States and 12 million copies internationally.[52][53] Additionally, it was certified six times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[54][55] Songs in A Minor established Keys’ popularity both inside and outside of the United States where she became the best-selling new artist and R&B artist of the year.[56]


Alicia Keys – Fallin’

The album’s release was preceded by the April release of her debut single, “Fallin'”, which spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.[57] The album’s second single, “A Woman’s Worth”, was released in February 2002 and peaked at seven on the Hot 100 and number three on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs; becoming her second top ten single on both charts.[58] Released in June, “How Come You Don’t Call Me” served as the album’s third single, peaking at 59 on the Hot 100. The album’s fourth single “Girlfriend” was released in the United Kingdom where it peaked at 82. The following year, the album was reissued as Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor, which included eight remixes and seven unplugged versions of the songs from the original.


Alicia Keys – A Woman’s Worth (Video)

Songs in A Minor led Keys to win five awards at the 2002 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for “Fallin'”, Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album; “Fallin'” was also nominated for Record of the Year. That same year, she collaborated with Christina Aguilera for the latter’s upcoming album Stripped on a song titled “Impossible”, which Keys wrote, co-produced, and provided with background vocals.[62] During the early 2000s, Keys also made small cameos in television series Charmed and American Dreams.[63]

2003–2005: The Diary of Alicia Keys and Unplugged

Keys followed up her debut with The Diary of Alicia Keys, which was released in December 2003. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling over 618,000 copies its first week of release, becoming the largest first-week sales for a female artist in 2003.[64] It sold 4.4 million copies in the United States and was certified four times Platinum by the RIAA.[54][65] It sold eight million copies worldwide,[66] becoming the sixth-biggest-selling album by a female artist and the second-biggest-selling album by a female R&B artist.[67] The album’s lead single, “You Don’t Know My Name”, peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for eight consecutive weeks, her first Top 10 single in both charts since 2002’s “A Woman’s Worth”. The album’s second single, “If I Ain’t Got You”, was released in February 2004 and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for six weeks. The album’s third single, “Diary”, peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, being their third consecutive Top 10 single in both charts. The album’s fourth and final single, “Karma”, which peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 17 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, first release to fail to achieve top ten status on both charts. “If I Ain’t Got You” became the first single by a female artist to remain on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for over a year.[68][69][70][71][72] Keys also collaborated with recording artist Usher on the song “My Boo” from his 2004 album, Confessions (Special Edition). The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for three weeks, became her first number-one single in Hot 100 since 2001’s “Fallin'”.


Alicia Keys You Don’t Know My Name


Alicia Keys – If I Ain’t Got You

Keys won Best R&B Video for “If I Ain’t Got You” at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards; she performed the song and “Higher Ground” with Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder.[73][74]

Keys opened a recording studio in Long Island, New York, called The Oven Studios, which she co-owns with her production and songwriting partner Kerry “Krucial” Brothers.[87] Keys and Brothers are the co-founders of KrucialKeys Enterprises, a production and songwriting team who have assisted Keys in creating her albums as well as creating music for other artists.[88]

2006–2008: Film debut and As I Am

In 2006, Keys won three NAACP Image Awards, including Outstanding Female Artist and Outstanding Song for “Unbreakable”.[89] She also received the Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[90] In October 2006, she played the voice of Mommy Martian in the “Mission to Mars” episode of the children’s television series The Backyardigans, in which she sang an original song, “Almost Everything Is Boinga Here”.[91] That same year, Keys nearly suffered a mental breakdown. Her grandmother had died and her family was heavily dependent on her. She felt she needed to “escape” and went to Egypt for three weeks. She explained: “That trip was definitely the most crucial thing I’ve ever done for myself in my life to date. It was a very difficult time that I was dealing with, and it just came to the point where I really needed to—basically, I just needed to run away, honestly. And I needed to get as far away as possible.”[92]

Keys made her film debut in early 2007 in the crime film Smokin’ Aces, co-starring as an assassin named Georgia Sykes opposite Ben Affleck and Andy García. Keys received much praise from her co-stars in the film; Ryan Reynolds called her “so natural” and said she would “blow everybody away.” Smokin’ Aces was a moderate hit at the box office, earning $57,103,895 worldwide during its theatrical run.[93][94] In the same year, Keys earned further praise for her second film, The Nanny Diaries, based on the 2002 novel of the same name, where she co-starred alongside Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans. The Nanny Diaries had a hit moderate performance at the box office, earning only $44,638,886 worldwide during its theatrical run.[95] She also guest starred as herself in the “One Man Is an Island” episode of the drama series Cane.[96]

Keys released her third studio album, As I Am, in November 2007; it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 742,000 copies in its first week. It gained Keys her largest first week sales of her career and became her fourth consecutive number one album, tying her with Britney Spears for the most consecutive number-one debuts on the Billboard 200 by a female artist.[97][98] The album’s fourth and final single, “Superwoman”, which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 12 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[105][106]


Alicia Keys – Superwoman

2009–2011: The Element of Freedom, marriage and motherhood

In 2009, Keys approached Clive Davis for permission to submit a song for Whitney Houston’s sixth studio album I Look to You. She subsequently co-wrote and produced the single “Million Dollar Bill” with record producer Swizz Beatz.[120] Months later, she was featured on rapper Jay-Z’s song “Empire State of Mind” which was the lead single from his eleventh studio album The Blueprint 3. The song was a commercial and critical success, topping the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her fourth number-one song on that chart.[121] Additionally, it won Grammy Awards for ‘Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and ‘Best Rap Song’ the following year, among a total of five nominations.[122] The following month, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers honored Keys with the Golden Note Award, an award given to artists “who have achieved extraordinary career milestones”.[123] She collaborated with Spanish recording artist Alejandro Sanz for “Looking for Paradise”, which topped the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart, this was Keys’ first number one on all three charts, which also made her the first Black-American of non-Hispanic origin to reach #1 on the Hot Latin Tracks.[124]


Alicia Keys & Jay Z – Empire State of Mind LIVE (HERE in Times Square) 2016

Keys released her fourth studio album, The Element of Freedom, in December 2009.[125] It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 417,000 copies in its first week.[126].

In May 2010, a representative for Keys and Swizz Beatz confirmed that they were engaged and expecting a child together.[133] Keys and Beatz had a wedding celebration near the Mediterranean Sea on July 31, 2010.[134] On October 14, 2010, Keys gave birth to their first son, in New York City.[135] She recorded a song together with Eve called “Speechless”, dedicated to her son.

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In June 2011, Songs in A Minor was re-released as deluxe and collector’s editions in commemoration of its 10th anniversary.[136] To support the release, Keys embarked on a four-city promotional tour, titled Piano & I: A One Night Only Event With Alicia Keys, featuring only her piano. Keys is also set to co-produce the Broadway premiere of Stick Fly, which was scheduled to open in December 2011.[137] On September 26, 2011, was the premiere of Project 5, known as Five, a short film that marks the debut of Keys as a director. It is a documentary of five episodes that tell stories of five women who were victims of breast cancer and how it affected their lives. The production also has co-direction of the actresses Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and film director Patty Jenkins.[138] In October 2011, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding J Records along with Arista Records and Jive Records. With the shutdown, Keys will release her future material on RCA Records.[139][140]

2012–2015: Girl on Fire

Keys released her fifth studio album Girl on Fire through RCA Records on November 27, 2012.[141] Keys has stated that she wants the album to “liberate” and “empower” fans.[142] The album’s title track was released on September 4 as its lead single and peak number eleven on Billboard hot 100, the single was Keys’s first top twenty own single on the chart since 2007 single “Like You’ll Never See Me Again”, she performed the song for the first time at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards on September 6.[143][144] “Girl on Fire” is an uptempo anthem.[145] “Brand New Me” was released as the album’s second single.[145] A softer ballad, it was noted as significantly different from the album’s lead single.[145] Prior, two songs from Girl on Fire were released as promotion. The first was a song titled “New Day”.[128]


Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire

On September 8, 2014, Keys uploaded the music video to a new song called “We Are Here” to her Facebook page, accompanied by a lengthy status update describing her motivation and inspiration to write the song.[161][162] It was released digitally the following week. Keys was also working with Pharrell Williams on her sixth studio album, first set for a 2015 release.[163][164] In an interview with Vibe, Keys described the sound of the album as “aggressive”.[165] One of the songs on the album is called “Killing Your Mother”.[166] Keys also played the piano on a Diplo-produced song “Living for Love” which featured on Madonna’s thirteenth studio album Rebel Heart (2015).[167] In November 2014, Keys announced that she is releasing a series of children’s books.[168] The first book released is entitled Blue Moon: From the Journals of MaMa Mae and LeeLee.[169] Keys gave birth to her second child, son Genesis Ali Dean, on December 27, 2014.[170] In 2015 Keys performed at the BET Awards 2015 with The Weeknd. In September 2015, Swizz Beatz stated that Keys’ sixth studio album will be released in 2016.[171] Keys played the character Skye Summers in the second season of Empire. She first appeared in the episode “Sinned Against”, which aired November 25, 2015.[172]


Alicia Keys – We Are Here

2016–present: Here and The Voice

On March 25, 2016, Keys was announced as a new coach on Season 11 of The Voice.[173] During The Voice finale, she came in third place with team member We’ McDonald. On May 4, 2016, Keys released her first single in four years, entitled “In Common”.[174] On May 28, 2016, Keys performed in the opening ceremony of 2016 UEFA Champions League Final in San Siro, Milan. The song topped Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart on October 15.[175] On June 20, 2016, World Refugee Day, Keys released the short film Let Me In, which she executive produced in conjunction with her We Are Here organization. The film is a reimagining of the refugee crisis as taking place in the United States.[176][177][178] On July 26, 2016, Keys performed at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In October 2016, she released a single from upcoming album Here called Blended Family (What You Do For Love) feat. A$AP Rocky.[179] On November 1, 2016, Keys unveiled her short film, “The Gospel,” to accompany the LP.[180] Here was released on November 4, peaking at number 2 of the Billboard 200, becoming her seventh top 10 album.[181] It peaked at number-one on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, becoming her seventh chart topper.[182]


Let Me In (Trailer) – We Are Here

In January 2017, she released the track “That’s What’s Up” that re-imagines the spoken word segment on the Kanye West song “Low Lights”.[183] Keys returned for twelfth series of The Voice and won the competition with her artist Chris Blue, on May 23, 2017. In May 2017, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Keys announced that she was working on her seventh studio album, therefore she did not return for the thirteenth series of The Voice.[184] In a letter to her fans, on the ‘As I Am’ 10th Anniversary, she revealed that the album is almost ready.[185] On September 17, 2017, Keys performed at Rock in Rio, in a powerful and acclaimed performance.[186][187] On October 18, 2017, NBC announced that Keys would be returning to the series for the show’s fourteenth season of The Voice alongside veterans Levine, Shelton, and new coach Kelly Clarkson. She placed in second place with her team member, Britton Buchanan. She will not return for the upcoming fifteenth season of The Voice.[188] She wrote and composed the song “We Are Here”, which was featured in the short film We Rise; that film was part of the New-York Historical Society’s “Hotbed” exhibit about women’s suffrage, which ran from November 3, 2017 to March 25, 2018.[189][190][191] On December 5, 2017, Hip-hop artist Eminem revealed that Keys collaborated on the song “Like Home” for his ninth studio album Revival.[192] Keys also featured on the song “Morning Light” from Justin Timberlake’s fifth studio album Man of the Woods (2018).[193]

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Video sources: www.youtube.com & www.vevo.com

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