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Keys, Alicia

Alicia Keys

1981—

Singer, songwriter, pianist, music producer, actress

Just three weeks after being released, Alicia Keys's debut album Songs in A Minor was certified triple platinum. Suddenly, you couldn't open a magazine, turn on the radio, or tune into MTV without encountering the stunning biracial Keys. With her classical training on the piano, soul-stirring lyrics, and heart-stopping voice, Keys had become a bona fide superstar. Not just another pretty face singing catchy pop, Keys wrote most of the lyrics and music, played all the instruments, and coproduced the album. The album eventually won her five Grammy Awards. But that was just a warm up. Since then, Keys has racked up several more Grammies, sold tens of millions more albums, and even launched an acting career. Simply put, Keys has emerged as one of the most important performing artists of her time.

Loved Music at an Early Age

Keys was born on January 25, 1981, in New York City to an African-American father and an Italian-American mother. Her parents did not stay together and Keys was raised by her mother, Terri Augello, a paralegal and sometimes actress. As a child, Keys didn't see much of her father, Craig Cook; however, they remained on good terms. Despite the difficult life of a single mom and the poverty in which she often struggled, Keys's mother was determined to nourish her child's budding passion for music and enrolled Alicia in piano classes. Keys told Rolling Stone, "I've had a deep love for music since I was four…. Music came before everything, everything, everything. I would risk everything for it." Despite her commitment, Keys was aware of the financial strain the lessons put on her mother's meager salary and once begged to quit. "But my mom would tell me, ‘Quit what you like, but you're not quitting piano.’ She didn't care what it cost," Keys told Newsweek. With her mother's support, Keys was studying classical piano by the time she was seven. At eleven she began writing songs.

For her high school education, Keys was accepted into the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School in Manhattan, where she majored in choir and continued her piano lessons. After school she worked on her voice at a local Police Athletic League girls' club. At the same time, Keys's manager, Jeff Robinson, began booking her at music-industry shows. Keys's life became a whirlwind of studying and singing, practicing piano, and performing onstage. At school her academic talents soon paid off. Keys graduated at age sixteen and was promptly accepted by Columbia University.

At just about the same time, her musical talents also began to reap rewards, and Keys found herself in a bidding war between major record companies. In the end she signed a deal with Columbia Records. Used to juggling both academics and music, Keys decided to stick with both Columbias—the label and the university. However, just four weeks into her freshman year, Keys walked away from the school. "I couldn't be in the studio at night and keep up with class," she told Rolling Stone.

Waited and Waited

At first, Keys's decision to quit school looked questionable, as industry red tape at Columbia Records began to ensnarl her. She managed to score some recording time and was even given a black baby grand piano by the label; yet her talent languished. "I felt that they wanted me to be a clone of Mariah [Carey] or Whitney [Houston], and I couldn't do that. I'm not the sequined dress type, or the high-heeled type, or the all-cleavage type. I'm not coming like that for no one," she told Newsweek.

When the deal with Columbia finally fell through, Clive Davis, the legendary music producer and president of Arista Records, stepped in. Responsible for the careers of musical powerhouses such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Santana, Davis knew Keys was special the first time he saw her perform. "[It was] at a Christmas showcase when she was just seventeen," Davis told Rolling Stone, "I was struck immediately by her voice and beauty—it was stunning. She had everything that an artist can want." Keys was just as smitten with Davis. "Clive was the only executive that ever asked me, how do I see myself, how do I see my career. When he asked me that question, I knew immediately that's where I had to be…. What he sees for me, I see for myself," Keys told the Daily Telegraph.

With Davis's support, Keys finally began to record her album at Arista. However, just as Songs in A Minor was nearing completion in 1998, Davis was ousted from Arista and Keys was put on hold again. In classic Keys style, she put this setback in perspective and learned something from it. She told Rolling Stone, "It built my character and tested my confidence, gave me patience and better prepared me for the whole game." By 1999 Davis had formed his own label, J-Records, and Keys promptly signed on as one of the label's first acts. After years of false starts and record industry mayhem, she was finally able to record her first album.

Made a Major Debut

Songs in A Minor debuted at number one on the Billboard Album Chart and both the record industry and the music-loving public took notice. The first single on the album, "Fallin'," immediately went into heavy rotation on both the pop and the Rhythm and Blues (R&B) radio stations. The album is a fresh mix of old and new, mostly R&B with a strong dose of hip-hop and a splash of jazz improvisations, all wrapped up with a classically trained musician's sensibility. "I was born in Hell's Kitchen and spent a lot of time in Harlem, and I was exposed to a lot of different types of music, from Biggie [the rapper Notorious B.I.G.] to Nirvana to Miles Davis to Nina Simone and back to classical," Keys told USA Today. "I think it was inevitable that I merge all of them [like] I do now."

As the album held tight at the top of the charts, Keys began a dizzying schedule of tours, benefit appearances, photo shoots, and interviews. She became an MTV regular, performed at awards shows, and appeared on late night talk shows. Fan sites blossomed on the Web. She bagged an MTV Music Award and scored five nominations for the 2002 American Music Awards, far outdistancing her nearest rival. Keys had become the music industry's new "it" girl. Not only could she sing, play piano, and write music, but she was also heart-achingly gorgeous.

At a Glance …

Born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981 (some sources say 1980), in New York, NY; daughter of Craig Cook (a flight attendant) and Terri Augello (a paralegal and actress). Education: Attended Columbia University.

Career: Singer and performer, 2001—; actor, 2006—.

Awards: MTV Video Music Awards, Best New Artist, 2001; seventeen Billboard Music Awards; fourteen National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards; eleven Grammy Awards.

Addresses: Office—c/o J Records, 745 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10151.

Stayed True to Herself

Even though Keys had been training as a performer, singer, and songwriter nearly her entire life, her seemingly overnight explosion onto the music scene A-list had some crediting her success to Davis and his infamous hype machine. Just before the album de- buted, Davis sent Oprah Winfrey a personal letter asking for Keys to appear on an episode of Oprah. While it is true that Davis is one of the few music industry insiders with the ability to get Oprah's personal attention, it was the music that convinced Oprah and her crew to book Keys. For her part, Keys dismissed not only those that blamed her new fame on the hype surrounding her but she also dismissed the hype itself. "I just have to continue doing what I've always done, and that is be who I am…. It's just Alicia. I like to be onstage, I like to write music, I like to make music. And that's really what the point is," she told MTV.com.

In 2003 Keys released her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys. The album quickly reached the same level of success as the first one and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, among others. The song "If I Ain't Got You" was nominated for Song of the Year. The Diary of Alicia Keys eventually won a total of six Grammy Awards. With her success firmly established, Keys was invited to sing "America the Beautiful" before Super Bowl XXXIX in February of 2005, an honor the young singer was happy to accept.

In April of 2004 Keys decided that she wanted to do something positive with her fame, so she joined the nonprofit group From the Ground Up to help teens with self-esteem and goal making. During her tour to promote The Diary of Alicia Keys, she visited an inner-city Chicago middle school to discuss the importance of having and following one's dreams. Looking for other ways to get out the message that anyone could achieve their dreams if they believed in themselves and worked hard, Keys teamed up with the Women's Entertainment (WE) Network for another cause. PR Newswire announced that Keys would be taking part in a new WE program, WE Empowers Women, to support "health, education and mentorship programs designed specifically to address and support the modern lives of women and their families." The show began airing October 1, 2005.

In June of 2004 Keys published her first book of poetry, Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics. The book included lyrics from her famous songs as well as poems from her journals and notebooks. After some of the poems, she clued readers into what she was feeling and thinking at the time she wrote them.

Reached Elite Level of Stardom

In October of 2005 Keys released her third album, Unplugged. Critics lauded the album as being one that highlighted the excellence of Keys's voice and melodies. Chuck Taylor of Billboard said of the album, "Alicia Keys' ‘Unplugged’ is that rare album where an artist not only capably demonstrates her well-entrenched poise and ease, but reveals more warmth than in the confines of a studio." The album was her third to debut at number one on the Billboard Two Hundred Album Chart. She was the first woman to have her MTV Unplugged album debut at the number-one spot on the charts.

Keys also became involved in the charity Keep a Child Alive, an organization that helps children living with AIDS. She told Oprah Winfrey in an interview printed in O, the Oprah Magazine, "Everything I do stems from something personal, not just because it will look good on paper or be a tax write-off…. These possibilities give my life meaning, and they give me something other than the red carpet to look forward to." In December of 2005 Keys teamed with Bono to record "Don't Give Up (Africa)" as a benefit single for Keep a Child Alive, and she visited Kenya in April of 2006 in support of the charity. Keys spent much of 2006 out of the public eye, though the entertainment press buzzed when Bob Dylan mentioned her admiringly in his song "Thunder on the Mountain."

In 2007 Keys seemed to be everywhere. In January of that year, she made her film debut in Smokin' Aces. She followed that up with a second movie appearance in The Nanny Diaries. Keys's crowing achievement of 2007 was the November release of her fourth studio album, As I Am. The album was an instant sensation, selling nearly three quarters of a million copies within a week of its release. Keys earned two Grammy Awards for one of the album's songs, "No One." On tour in support of the album, she played to sell-out audiences across Europe, then she launched the North American leg of her tour in the spring of 2008. Keys also continued building her acting resume in 2008 with a role in The Secret Life of Bees. Firmly established by this time as one of the music industry's brightest stars—and one of the few embraced equally by fans and serious music critics—Keys stands poised to reach levels of acclaim reserved for only the very best performers of each generation.

Selected works

Albums

Songs in A Minor, J-Records, 2001.

The Diary of Alicia Keys, J-Records, 2003.

Unplugged, J-Records, 2005.

As I Am, J-Records, 2007.

Films

Smokin' Aces, 2006.

The Nanny Diaries, 2007.

The Secret Life of Bees, 2008.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, December 18, 2004, p. 60; September 24, 2005, p. 67; October 1, 2005, p. 94; October 22, 2005, p. 68; October 29, 2005, p. 71; November 10, 2007, p. 24.

Daily Telegraph (London), August 4, 2001.

Ebony, November 2007, p. 68.

Entertainment Weekly, October 14, 2005, p. 148; September 1, 2006, p. 75; January 12, 2007, p. 11; November 23, 2007, p. 18.

Jet, December 13, 2004, p. 58; April 25, 2005, p. 38; December 3, 2007, p. 60.

Newsweek, July 23, 2001.

People, August 27, 2002, p. 125; May 4, 2005, p. 36; October 17, 2005, p. 93.

Interview, December 2007, p. 144.

PR Newswire, January 13, 2005; September 14, 2005.

Rolling Stone, July 5, 2001; November 8, 2001.

School Library Journal, June, 2005, p. 190.

USA Today, April 20, 2001; April 6, 2006.

Online

Alicia Keys, http://www.aliciakeys.com (accessed May 28, 2008).

"Alicia Keys," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/keys_alicia/artist.jhtml (accessed May 28, 2008).

"Artists: Alicia Keys," J Records, http://www.jrecords.com (accessed May 28, 2008).

—Candace LaBalle and Bob Jacobson

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Keys, Alicia

Alicia Keys



Singer, songwriter, pianist




Just three weeks after being released in the summer of 2001, Alicia Keys's debut album, Songs in A Minor, was certified triple platinum. Suddenly you couldn't open a magazine, turn on the radio, or tune into MTV without encountering the stunning Keys. With her classical training on the piano, soul-stirring lyrics, and heart-stopping voice, Keys had become a bona fide superstar. Not just another pretty face singing catchy pop, Keys wrote most of the lyrics and music, played all of the instruments, and coproduced the album. Although critics hailed her first album for its unique blend of classical and soul music, Keys herself was more modest about her innovative approach to music. As she told Margena A. Christian in Jet, "I really didn't know that I was doing it. It was kind of something that comes natural to me, studying classical for so long and having a love of soul and R&B music. It's just kind of something that fused together by itself." Keys won no less than five Grammy Awards for Songs in A Minor, and she proved her staying power by following up with the hugely successful The Diary of Alicia Keys at the end of 2003. Like her debut, this album landed in the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart in the first week of its release.


Music Came Before Everything


Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook on January 21, 1981, in New York City to an Italian-American mother and an African-American father. Her parents did not stay together and Keys was raised by her mother, Terri Augello, a paralegal and aspiring actress. As a child, Keys didn't see much of her father, Craig Cook, however, they remained on good terms. Despite the difficult life of a single mom and the poverty in which she often struggled, Keys's mother was determined to nourish her child's budding passion for music and enrolled Keys in piano classes. Keys told Rolling Stone, "I've had a deep love for music since I was four. Music came before everything, everything, everything. I would risk everything for it." Despite her commitment, Keys was aware of the financial strain the lessons put on her mother's meager salary and once begged to quit. "But my mom would tell me, 'Quit what you like, but you're not quitting piano.' She didn't care what it cost," Keys told Newsweek. With her mother's support, Keys learned classical piano by the time she was seven. At eleven she began writing songs.

For her high school education Keys was accepted into the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School in Manhattan where she majored in Choir and continued her piano lessons. After school she worked on her voice at a local Police Athletic League girls' club. At the same time, Keys's manager, Jeff Robinson, began booking Keys at music industry shows. "We wanted people to see that I played piano and sang," she told Rolling Stone. Keys's life became a whirlwind of studying and singing, practicing piano, and performing onstage. At school her academic talents soon paid off.

At age 16, Keys graduated early and was promptly accepted to Columbia University. At just about the same time, her musical talents also began to reap rewards and Keys found herself in a bidding war between major record companies. In the end Keys signed a deal with Columbia Records. Used to juggling both academics and music, Keys decided to stick with both Columbias. However, just four weeks into her freshman year, Keys walked away from the university. "I couldn't be in the studio at night and keep up with class," she told Rolling Stone.


Waited and Waited


Her decision to quit school soon seemed questionable as industry red tape at Columbia Records began to ensnarl Keys. She managed to score some recording time and was even given a black baby grand piano by the label, yet her talent languished. "I felt that they wanted me to be a clone of Mariah [Carey] or Whitney [Houston], and I couldn't do that. I'm not the sequined dress type, or the high-heeled type, or the all-cleavage type. I'm not coming like that for no one," she told Newsweek.

When the deal with Columbia finally fell through, the legendary music producer and president of Arista Records, Clive Davis, stepped in. Responsible for the careers of musical powerhouses such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Santana, Davis knew Keys was special the first time he saw her perform. "[It was] at a Christmas showcase when she was just seventeen," Davis told Rolling Stone, "I was struck immediately by her voice and beautyit was stunning. She had everything that an artist can want." Keys was just as smitten with Davis. "Clive was the only executive that ever asked me, how do I see myself, how do I see my career. When he asked me that question, I knew immediately that's where I had to be.What he sees for me, I see for myself," Keys told The Daily Telegraph.

At Arista with Davis's support, Keys finally began to record her album. However, just as Songs in A Minor was nearing completion in 1998, Davis was ousted from Arista and Keys was put on hold again. In classic Keys style she put this setback in perspective and learned something from it. She told Rolling Stone, "[i]t built my character and tested my confidence, gave me patience and better prepared me for the whole game." By 1999, Davis had formed his own label, J Records, and Keys promptly signed on as one of the label's first acts. After years of false starts and record industry mayhem, Keys was finally able to record her first album. Keys, however, was not frustrated by the delays. As she told MTV.com, "Ultimately, what is four years in an entire lifetime? That's the outlook I like to take on it. Nothing before its time. And the time is now. Believe that!"


Made a Major Debut


Songs in A Minor debuted at number one on the Billboard Album Chart and both the record industry and the music-loving public took notice. The first single on the album, "Fallin'," immediately went into heavy rotation on both the pop and the R&B radio stations. The album is a fresh mix of old and new, mostly R&B with a strong dose of hip-hop and a splash of jazz improvisations, all wrapped up with a classically-trained musician's sensibility. "I was born in Hell's Kitchen and spent a lot of time in Harlem, and I was exposed to a lot of different types of music, from Biggie [rapper Notorious B.I.G.] to Nirvana to Miles Davis to Nina Simone and back to classical," Keys told USA Today. "I think it was inevitable that I merge all of them."

For the Record . . .


Born Alicia Augello Cook on January 21, 1981, in New York, NY; daughter of Terri Augello (a para-legal and occasional actress) and Craig Cook (a flight attendant). Education: Attended Columbia University.


Released first album, Songs in A Minor, 2001; won five Grammy Awards and an MTV Video Music Award, 2001; released The Diary of Alicia Keys, 2003.


Awards: MTV Video Music Awards, Best New Artist, 2001; Grammy Awards, Song of the Year for "Fallin'," 2001; Best New Artist, 2001; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Fallin'," 2001; Best R&B Song for "Fallin', 2001; Best R&B Album for Songs in A Minor, 2001.


Addresses: Record company J Records, 745 5th Ave., New York, NY 10151, phone: (646) 840-5672, web-site: http://www.jrecords.com. Website Alicia Keys Official Website: http://www.aliciakeys.net/.




As the album held tight at the top of the charts, Keys began a dizzying schedule of tours, benefit appearances, photo shoots, and interviews. She became an MTV regular, performed at awards shows, and appeared on late night talk shows. Fan sites blossomed on the web. She bagged five Grammys, an MTV Music Award, and scored five nominations for the 2002 American Music Awards, far outdistancing her nearest rival. Keys had become the music industry's new "it" girl. Not only could she sing, play piano, and write music, but she was also heart-achingly gorgeous.

Being Alicia Keys


Even though Keys had been training as a performer, singer, and songwriter nearly her entire life, her seemingly overnight explosion onto the music scene A-list had some crediting her success to Davis and his infamous hype machine. Just before the album debuted, Davis sent Oprah Winfrey a personal letter asking for Keys to appear on an episode of Oprah. While it is true that Davis is one of the few music industry insiders with the power to get Oprah's personal attention, it was the music that convinced Oprah and her crew to book Keys. For her part, Keys dismissed not only those that blamed her new fame on the hype surrounding her, but she also dismissed the hype itself. "I just have to continue doing what I've always done, and that is be who I am. It's just Alicia. I like to be onstage, I like to write music, I like to make music. And that's really what the point is," she told MTV.com. In an industry ruled by carefully choreographed bleach-blonde teenagers in flesh-baring outfits singing prefab pop, the multitalented Keys truly stood out.

As 2003 drew to a close, Keys got her chance to prove that she was no overnight flash in the pan. Her sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, like its predecessor, became an instant bestseller, topping the Billboard Top 200 chart in the first week of its release, and wowing critics and fans alike. The first single from Diary, "You Don't Know My Name," had an "old school classic soul feel," according to People reviewer Chuck Arnold. Featuring a mid-song spoken interlude, the song shot to the top of the charts immediately upon release. If her first two albums were any indication of what the future held, Keys seemed poised to dominate the music charts for a long time to come.


Selected discography

Songs in A Minor, J Records, 2001.

The Diary of Alicia Keys, J Records, 2003.



Sources

Periodicals


The Daily Telegraph (London, England), August 4, 2001. Jet, August 13, 2001, p. 58.

Newsweek, July 23, 2001.

People, August 27, 2001, p. 125; December 8, 2003, p. 47; December 29, 2003, p. 39.

Rolling Stone, July 5, 2001; November 8, 2001.

USA Today, April 20, 2001.


Online


"Alicia Keys: Locking It Down," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/bands/archive/k/keys01/index2.jhtml (January 15, 2004).

Alicia Keys Official Website, http://www.aliciakeys.net (January 15, 2004).

J Records, http://www.jrecords.com (January 15, 2004).

"Keys Unlocks Second No. 1 Debut," Billboard.com, http://www.billboard.com/bb/daily/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=2048574 (January 15, 2004).

Recording Academy Grammy Awards, http://www.grammy.com (January 15, 2004).


Candace LaBalle and
Michael Belfiore

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Keys, Alicia 1981–

Alicia Keys 1981

Singer, songwriter

Music Before Everything

Waited and Waited

Made a Major Debut

Sources

Just three weeks after being released, Alicia Keyss debut album, Songs in A Minor, was certified triple platinum. Suddenly you couldnt open a magazine, turn on the radio, or tune into MTV without encountering the stunning bi-racial Keys. With her classical training on the piano, soul-stirring lyrics, and heart-stopping voice, Keys had become a bonafide superstar. Not just another pretty face singing catchy pop, Keys wrote most of the lyrics and music, played all of the instruments, and co-produced the album. Of Songs in A Minor Keys told Worldpop.com, [its] a journey through my life from the time when I was 14, when I wrote the first song on the album . All the things I went through, and experienced . Thats where the title comes from as well, A Minor is one of my favorite keys to plays in, and A is the first letter of my name so it really just talks about songs from me.

Music Before Everything

Keys was born on January 21, 1981, in New York City to an Italian-American mother and an African-American father. Her parents did not stay together and Keys was raised by her mother, Terri Augello, a paralegal and sometimes actress. As a child Keys didnt see much of her father, Craig Cook, however, they remained on good terms. Despite the difficult life of a single mom and the poverty in which she often struggled, Keyss mother was determined to nourish her childs budding passion for music and enrolled Keys in piano classes. Keys told Rolling Stone, Ive had a deep love for music since I was four . Music came before everything, everything, everything. I would risk everything for it. Despite her commitment, Keys was aware of the financial strain the lessons put on her mothers meager salary and once begged to quit. But my mom would tell me, Quit what you like, but youre not quitting piano. She didnt care what it cost, Keys told Newsweek. With her mothers support, Keys learned classical piano by the time she was seven. At eleven she began writing songs.

For her high school education Keys was accepted into the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School in Manhattan where she majored in Choir and continued her piano lessons. After school she worked on her voice at a local Police Athletic League girls club. At the same time, Keyss manager, Jeff Robinson, began booking Keys at music-industry shows. We wanted people to see that I played piano and sang, she told Rolling Stone. Keyss life became a whirlwind of studying and singing, practicing piano, and performing onstage. At school her academic talents soon paid off. At age 16 Keys graduated early and was promptly accepted to Columbia University. At just about the same time, her musical talents also began to reap rewards and Keys found herself in a bidding war between major record companies. In the end Keys signed a deal with Columbia Records. Used to juggling both academics and music, Keys decided to stick with both Colombias. However, just four weeks into her freshman year, Keys walked away from the university. I couldnt be in the studio at night and keep up with class, she told Rolling Stone.

At a Glance

Born on January 21, 1981, in New York, NY; daughter of Terri Augello, a paralegal and occasional actress, and Craig Cook, a flight attendant. Education: graduated high school from Manhattans Professional Performance Arts School; attended Columbia University.

Career: Singer, songwriter, pianist, producer. Released first album, Songs in Λ Minor, 2001.

Awards: Best New Artist, MTV Video Music Awards, 2001; two nominations for Best Artist, Lady of Soul Awards, 2001; two American Music Awards, 2002.

Addresses: Press Contact Thomas Martin, J Records, 745 5th Ave., New York, NY, 10151, (646) 8405672.

Waited and Waited

Her decision to quit school soon seemed questionable as industry red-tape at Columbia Records began to ensnarl Keys. She managed to score some recording time and was even given a black baby grand piano by the label, yet her talent languished. I felt that they wanted me to be a clone of Mariah (Carey) or Whitney (Houston), and I couldnt do that. Im not the sequined dress type, or the high-heeled type, or the all-cleavage type. Im not coming like that for no one, she told Newsweek.

When the deal with Columbia finally fell through, the legendary music producer and president of Arista Records, Clive Davis, stepped in. Responsible for the careers of musical powerhouses such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Santana, Davis knew Keys was special the first time he saw her perform. [It was] at a Christmas showcase when she was just seventeen, Davis told Rolling Stone, I was struck immediately by her voice and beautyit was stunning. She had everything that an artist can want. Keys was just as smitten with Davis. Clive was the only executive that ever asked me, how do I see myself, how do I see my career. When he asked me that question, I knew immediately thats where I had to be . What he sees for me, I see for myself, Keys told The Daily Telegraph.

At Arista with Daviss support, Keys finally began to record her album. However, just as Songs in A Minor was nearing completion in 1998, Davis was ousted from Arista and Keys was put on hold again. In classic Keys style she put this setback in perspective and learned something from it. She told Rolling Stone, [i]t built my character and tested my confidence, gave me patience and better prepared me for the whole game. By 1999 Davis had formed his own label, J Records, and Keys promptly signed on as one of the labels first acts. After years of false starts and record industry mayhem, Keys was finally able to record her first album. Keys, however, was not frustrated by the delays. As she told www.mtv.com, Ultimately, what is four years in an entire lifetime? Thats the outlook I like to take on it. Nothing before its time. And the time is now. Believe that!

Made a Major Debut

As the album held tight at the top of the charts, Keys began a dizzying schedule of tours, benefit appearances, photo shoots, and interviews. She became an MTV regular, performed at awards shows, and appeared on late night talk shows. Fan sites blossomed on the web. She bagged an MTV Music Award and scored five nominations for the 2002 American Music Awards, far out-distancing her nearest rival. Keys had become the music industrys new it girl. Not only could she sing, play piano, and write music, but she was also heart-achingly gorgeous.

Even though Keys had been training as a performer, singer, and songwriter nearly her entire life, her seemingly overnight explosion onto the music scene A-list had some crediting her success to Davis and his infamous hype machine. Just before the album debuted, Davis sent Oprah Winfrey a personal letter asking for Keys to appear on an episode of Oprah. While it is true that Davis is one of the few music industry insiders with the power to get Oprahs personal attention, it was the music that convinced Oprah and her crew to book Keys. For her part, Keys dismissed not only those that blamed her new fame on the hype surrounding her, but she also dismissed the hype itself. I just have to continue doing what Ive always done, and that is be who I am . Its just Alicia. I like to be onstage, I like to write music, I like to make music. And thats really what the point is, she told MTV.com. In an industry ruled by carefully choreographed bleach-blonde teenagers in flesh-baring outfits singing prefab pop, the multi-talented Keys truly stood out. If Songs in A Minor was any indication of what the future held, Keys was clearly poised to dominate the music charts for a long time.

Sources

Periodicals

The Daily Telegraph, (London), August 4, 2001.

Newsweek, July 23, 2001.

People Weekly, August 27, 2001, p. 125.

Rolling Stone, July 5, 2001; November 8, 2001.

USA Today, April 20, 2001, Life Section E.

Online

www.aliciakeys.net

www.jrecords.com

www.mtv.com

www.worldpop.com

Candace LaBalle

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"Keys, Alicia 1981–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Keys, Alicia 1981–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/keys-alicia-1981

Keys, Alicia

ALICIA KEYS

Born: Alicia Augello Cook; New York, New York, 4 January 1981

Genre: R&B

Best-selling album since 1990: Songs in A Minor (2001)

Hit songs since 1990: "Fallin'," "A Woman's Worth"


Alicia Keys is a pop phenomenon. The classically trained, piano-playing R&B prodigy was carefully groomed for success by the music industry legend Clive Davis, whose smarts paid off when Keys's 2001 debut album, Songs in a Minor, became one of the breakout hits of the year. Songs such as "Fallin'" and "A Woman's Worth" rocketed Keys to the top of the pop heap with their combination of timeless 1970s soul, classical piano, and hip-hop sensibility.

A native of New York's rough-and-tumble Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, Keys was born to an Italian-American mother, Terri Augello, and African-American father, Craig Cook. She began piano lessons at age five, and, after her parents split, her mother, a paralegal and part-time actress, was left to raise Keys alone in sometimes difficult circumstances.

Her mother's record collection, which included such diverse artists as Beethoven, Roberta Flack, U2, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald, prodded Keys to keep up her piano playing, no matter the cost. By the age of seven, Keys was proficient in classical piano, and by eleven she began writing original songs. (She penned the song "Butterflyz" at age fourteen; it ended up on Songs in A Minor.) Keys majored in choir at the Professional Performing Arts School of Manhattan as a teen, graduating early at age sixteen, having already signed and rescinded a 1995 deal with Capitol Records.

Her manager, Jeff Robinson, had begun booking Keys at important music industry events during her senior year, leading to a hectic life of studying, practicing, and performing. Though she entered Columbia University on a full scholarship in 1995, the allure of the music business was too great, and Keys dropped out after just four weeks to focus on her just-signed recording contract with Columbia Records.

While Columbia pushed Keys to model herself on such established stars as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, the singer was not interested in fitting into an established mold, and the deal faltered after producing only one song, "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)," for the soundtrack of the 1997 film Men in Black. Just a few months later the president of Arista Records, Clive Davis, caught a showcase performance by the seventeen-year-old singer and signed her on the spot.

Just as Keys finished Songs in A Minor, Davis was ousted from his position in 1998, and Keys's career went on hold. Davis took Keys with him to his new label, J Records, formed in 1999. While waiting for her debut to be released, Keys appeared on Jermaine Dupri's Jermaine Dupri Presents: 12 Soulful Nights, Jimmy Cozier's self-titled debut, and Da Brat's Unrestricted. She also contributed the songs "Rock Wit U" to the Shaft (2000) soundtrack and "Rear View Mirror" to the Dr. Doolittle 2 soundtrack.

After months of Davis-secured appearances on BET and MTV, and The Oprah Winfrey Show (courtesy of a personal plea to Winfrey from Davis), Songs in A Minor was released in June 2001, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart and selling nearly 3 million copies within three weeks.

Although Keys wrote most of its songs while still in her teens, Songs In A Minor carries an old soul wisdom, sagacity, and heartache that belies her age. Written and co-produced almost entirely by Keys, the album blends classical, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop influences on tracks such as "Fallin'," the album's first single, which pervaded pop, R&B, and video outlets upon release. It is a pop-gospel song with a classical piano feel about a failed romance, conveyed by a voice that is strong, sexy, confident yet vulnerable. Songs about failed romance, respect, and independence earned Keys comparisons to R&B artists such as Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin, while her love of hip-hop style and attitude pegged Keys as thoroughly modern. The combination was a breath of fresh air amid a sea of prepackaged female artists whose images and performances were typically directed by their male collaborators. Keys cemented her crossover appeal by collaborating with the rapper Eve on her hit 2002 single, "Gangsta Lovin'." During her live concerts, Keys often led her twelve-piece band through medleys that incorporated Beethoven and bits of songs by rapper Notorious B.I.G., pop star Michael Jackson, 1960s rockers the Doors, and soul legend Marvin Gaye, synthesizing the diverse influences of her youth.

In addition to hundreds of appearances, magazine covers, and interviews, Keys gained critical acceptance for her work in 2002, garnering an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist, two Billboard Awards, two American Music Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, three Soul Train Awards, and five Grammys. In late 2002 Keys began developing talent for her own company, Krucial Keys Enterprise, and began work on her second album, scheduled for a 2003 release. Keys was also expected to make her film debut in late 2003.

Although it was the flavor of the day, Alicia Keys knew she was not destined to be a choreographed, belly-baring teen music queen. With the help of Clive Davis, the prodigiously talented singer/songwriter exploded onto the R&B scene in 2001 with Songs in A Minor, the multimillion-selling first chapter in what is sure to be a long career.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Songs in A Minor (J Records, 2001).

WEBSITE:

www.aliciakeys.net.

gil kaufman

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"Keys, Alicia." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Keys, Alicia." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/keys-alicia