Arts & Entertainment, Music

The Anatomy of an Anthem

Alicia Keys

Lesson time 07:45 min

Alicia shares her thoughts on what makes a song an anthem, and talks about the theme and tone of the “sad triumph.”

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Topics include: Making a Powerful Connection


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I don't know if I 100% can tell you what makes a good anthem or how to make an anthem. You don't know a song is an anthem. You know that it feels great. You know that you love it. You know that there's something so special about it. This I know. With all the songs that I think of, even like a "Girl On Fire" or "No One," "Empire," you-- each time, I knew there was something magic. Like, I knew it, and I knew it while it was being created. And I felt this energy that I was, like, something's happening. Like, I literally felt like something's happening, like, as if I was in a laboratory and something was just about to explode from the mixing of all the things. But I'm not sure that I could say during the creation of these songs that I knew exactly what it was that would make it an anthem. And I actually-- personally, my people are different. You be you. But I personally feel that there is something almost not quite right with me claiming that this song is an anthem. Let me rephrase that because I'm very, very big on the power of words. I think you should claim everything. You want to make an anthem, you say, "Today I am going to make an anthem. I am going to create a powerful song that the entire world can sing at the top of their lungs. It's going to have all the parts I needed to have, and it's going to say exactly what I need it to say." You should claim what you want. What I mean, though, is, I find that there's a humility, like, a respect, a deep respect that I have for the music, for the alchemy, for the creative process. And I almost feel like it stunts what it can become if I'm already telling it what to be. And so I feel very particular about claiming certain things about the music, as opposed to just allowing it to develop and be and become and find it and feel it and feel amazing about it. So I think that that's what I meant by that. Now, looking from hindsight, I could tell you what makes that song an anthem. Because now it's an anthem, and I know it's an anthem, so I can talk about it like that. But in the moment that I wrote it, if you asked me, "Is this an anthem?" I would say, "I am not here to decide that." Like, I love this. And that's what matters the most. I have put everything into it. So now, looking back, I think that what makes it anthemic and what I recognize is, a lot of pieces of a lot of my songs that I didn't know I was doing intentionally, but now that I can look back at a lot of them, there is a-- for this particular song, there's something that I like to call-- it's like a sad triumph. And there's something about the songs that have this hopeful feeling, but they want to make you cry. And to me, that's what "No One" does for me. It's talking about how we're going to make it, and we're not going to listen to anybody else. It's going to be all right. But part of it feels sad while it feels hopeful. And I think there's something about that rub that really works in the human p...

About the Instructor

With 15 Grammy Awards and more than 40 million albums sold so far, Alicia Keys is one of the world’s most beloved singer-songwriters. Now the legendary artist invites you into her studio to share her process for creating music built from authentic emotion. Breaking down anthems like “Fallin’,” Alicia shows you how she writes lyrics, crafts melodies, and explores sonics so you can discover the music you were born to make.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Alicia Keys

The legendary singer-songwriter and producer shares her approach to making music that resonates and helps you find the power of your unique voice.

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