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A Brief Introduction to Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys is a singer-songwriter and producer who has received 15 Grammys and 12 ASCAP awards and sold more than 42 million records worldwide. She started playing the piano when she was just seven years old and began writing songs by the time she was 12. Her soulful debut album, Songs in A Minor (2001), swept the Grammy Awards. She followed it up with six more hit studio albums: The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), As I Am (2007), The Element of Freedom (2009), Girl on Fire (2012), Here (2016), and Alicia (2020). She’s had four No. 1 hit singles (including “Fallin’” and “No One”) throughout her career and was the first woman to have a number-one debut for her MTV Unplugged album. Alicia has collaborated with several high-profile artists, including Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, and Whitney Houston, and has served as a coach on four seasons of NBC’s The Voice.
Alicia Keys’s 12 Most Notable Songs
From duets to solo hits, here are some of Alicia Keys’s most notable songs:
- “Fallin’” (2001): Now widely considered Alicia’s signature song, “Fallin’” introduced the world to Alicia. The seminal arrangement showcases her vocal range, lyrical maturity, and early neo-gospel–infused sound, garnering Alicia her first Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Rolling Stone named the song one of the 100 greatest songs of the 2000s.
- “If I Ain’t Got You” (2003): Winner of one Grammy Award and nominated for a second, the song reconsiders materialism in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the death of R&B luminary Aaliyah. It debuted on Billboard’s 100 list and peaked at number four, and official remixes featured Usher and Kanye West.
- “You Don’t Know My Name” (2003): This song from her acclaimed sophomore album became a top 10 hit and Grammy winner, topping Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for eight weeks in a row. The lovelorn song was produced by Kanye West and features a pre-fame John Legend on background vocals.
- “No One” (2007): A crisp, soulful ballad, “No One” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for five weeks straight, the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for 10 weeks, and was the most-played song on American radio stations in 2007. It ranked among the best-selling singles of all time within a year, earning the singer another pair of Grammy Awards.
- “Superwoman” (2007): The super-catchy, organ-driven ode to female empowerment—Alicia’s self-professed favorite song off her album As I Am—became the theme song for the WNBA’s 2008 season and earned Alicia her second consecutive Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
- “Empire State of Mind” (2009): On rapper Jay-Z’s album The Blueprint 3 (2009), Alicia performed vocals for the chorus and wrote the bridge. The song cracked several 2009 songs of the year lists, including the Village Voice, the New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly, and won the Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Alicia later released an unplugged sequel-slash-companion song, “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down.”
- “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” (2009): When Alicia’s album The Element of Freedom came out, many critics immediately latched onto “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” as the best track. This heart-filled ballad plays like a powerful yet innovative homage to Prince. The song peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart—Alicia’s thirteenth top 10 hit of the decade and marked a particular moment in her career: once enamored of Prince’s synthy power ballads, Alicia was composing all-time classics of her own. (She even covered his song, retitled “How Come You Don't Call Me,” on her debut album.)
- “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)” (2010): A sultry, vulnerable song, “Un-Thinkable” was the longest-running No. 1 single of 2010—it sat atop Billboard’s R&B chart for a solid three months. Its success was propelled by a hit music video that explored interracial relationships and was recognized at the NAACP Awards. The love song features backup vocals by rapper Drake.
- “Girl on Fire” (2012): Building on “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” the smash hit served as the centerpiece for a three-song suite (alongside a stripped-down version, plus a remix with Nicki Minaj) that showcased Alicia’s mastery of musical arrangements. The song was inspired by Alicia’s recent marriage to producer Swizz Beatz and the birth of their first son, Egypt.
- “Blended Family (What You Do For Love)” (2016): Exploring co-parenting and modern-day familial dynamics, this collaboration with Gen Z megastar A$AP Rocky was both a conversation starter and a top 10 track on Billboard’s Adult R&B.
- “Show Me Love” (2019): A soulful song featuring vocals by R&B singer Miguel, “Show Me Love” debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was Alicia’s eleventh chart-topper on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs playlist. She extended her record of hitmakers with “A Woman’s Worth,” “Unbreakable,” and “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.”
- “Underdog” (2020): A new song from Alicia’s latest album, “Underdog” quickly became her biggest mainstream success since “Girl on Fire,” debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming one of the most sold digital singles of 2020. Alicia views the song as uplifting—encouraging listeners to overcome difficult obstacles in their lives.
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