By Jill Diver
After entering the music scene nine years ago, Alicia Keys’ musical repertoire is constantly growing
and changing. The 29-year-old singer released her fourth album, “The Element of Freedom,” last December.
Already platinum and climbing the charts, it is at No. 6 on the R&B/Hiphop chart for the week of March 20. And it shows off her love of her native New York and reflects feelings of her personal life in songs such as “Put It In A Love Song” and “Love Is Blind,” as well as the title track “The Element of Freedom.”
“I feel (that) we all feel what’s going on in the world,” Keys said. “I’ve always been a very empathetic
person, so it’s natural.”
Keys will have a chance to show off that natural empathy — as well as the songs from her new
and previous releases — tomorrow when she plays the Agganis Arena in Boston.
Keys won five Grammys for her debut record, 2001’s “Songs In A Minor.” Today, she says that she is
constantly exploring new sounds, new elements and new feelings when she writes her music.
Her efforts are paying off.
According to Billboard.com, her latest track, “Empire State Of Mind,” has been on the Hip-Hop/ R&B charts for 27-weeks.
“When we did the song, I felt something, but I didn’t know exactly what it was,” Keys said. “Even in its rawest form — before it even was what it is now — it is so like, ‘Wow this feels good.’”
Though Keys likes to write for herself, she also writes music for other artists. Sharing her talent
in this way is “unforgettable, rewarding and amazing,” she said.
Whomever she is writing for, she always tries to evolve as an artist.
“That is why I’m most excited about the show,” Keys said. “There are so many places that I can go and take these different journeys in the show. Some people only want to see me behind the piano and some people are like, ‘Could you do something else besides play the piano?’ So there’s going to be something for everyone in this show, because that’s who I am.”
But that’s not all of who she is.
Keys also is active giving back and works hard forwarding her 10-year-old charity, Keep A Child
“We provide medicine for children and families who have AIDS and wouldn’t be able to afford it,”
Keys said of the organization’s mission.
Keep A Child Alive currently operates in Africa and Keys has plans to expand into India.
“We’re able to also focus on orphan care and pediatric wings,” she said. “It’s really changing the
face of the AIDS pandemic.”
The mission is close to her heart, as is her music. And Keys believes that it is her ability to
access what is in her heart that has attracted so many people to her work.
“When songs are close to what I understand, then I can really write them and give them the
truth,” Keys said. “Sometimes (that understanding) happens all at once, or in a rush. Sometimes
it’s like a puzzle and I have to unravel it, and figure out which piece goes where.”
Those puzzle pieces and the drive to assemble them for personal advancement come largely from her upbringing: Keys grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. The rough neighborhood taught her not to
let her surroundings define her success.
“I think no matter where you’re from, and no matter what situations you’ve been through, I feel like it’s so important to use your surroundings as your fuel to really ignite you,” Keys said. “To say (to yourself), ‘There’s more out in this world, and I’m not going to accept only what I see.’”
Keys said the “hardest trap” is not being stuck — rising above what you might have known all your life.
“Use it as fuel,” she said. “To go farther and study harder and learn more and be better and to really do you’re best.”
This article ran in The Eagle-Tribune, Sunday, March 21, 2010