15 Best Songs From Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys' songs capture the essence of a moment. When words fail, there's more than one track on each of her four albums to serve as the soundtrack for situations involving love, lust, heartbreak and hard times. The BoomBox selects 15 of the piano-playing singer's songs that showcase stellar writing skills, mesmerizing beats and timeless qualities.
The R&B beauty will perform songs off her famed first effort, 'Songs in A Minor,' during Piano & I: A One Night Only Event With Alicia Keys, taking place at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on June 30. Tune in to the live stream of the intimate show here at 9PM EST.
15. 'Superwoman' (2007)
Her roots were deeply planted in R&B originally, but Alicia Keys, a master in her genre at this point, moved more toward the pop route on her third album, 'As I Am,' with 'Superwoman' standing as a bold, fearless anthem for women everywhere. Written by famed rocker Linda Perry -- the effort celebrates in uniting all females -- sisters and mothers -- to find those "better days to come." Though the lyrics may not be as quotable as her past Grammy-winning smashes, the song serves its purpose for being simple yet effective in its message.
14. 'Rock Wit You' (2001)
Old soul is given a modern spin on this track, which finds Ms. Keys detailing her "stand by your man" attitude. While she won't settle for a liar or a cheat, she's not looking to live a 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' fairy tale with her boo either. "Dead broke, no house no ride, I'm gon' stay right by your side," she sings. Kerry "Krucial" Brotherslends his production skills to the track, a tried and true formula that has rarely failed in bringing out the best in the effervescent entertainer.
13. 'Troubles' (2001)
Alicia Keys may have Swizz Beatz by her side now, but 10 years ago, all she had was a piano to tap into to belt out her frustrations. The R&B beauty, just 20 when she was originally performing the song, showcased angst, despair and fear that could be felt by men and women twice her age. However, though she revealed her vulnerabilities, Keys never let them envelop her and turned the track's chorus into an uplifting message of positivity: if you're troubled, you just gotta let it go... when you need me baby, all you do is let me know.
12. 'Put It in a Love Song' (2009)
By far one of Alicia Keys' most pop-driven records, she teamed up with her husband and lauded producer Swizz Beatz to create this uptempo track featured on her fourth album, 'The Element of Freedom.' But what piqued listeners' interest? The powerhouse that is Beyonce exploding on the beat alongside Keys. With a singsong chorus supported by thumping drums, the colorful instrumentalist welcomed friendly competition on the tune, shooting down the notion that only one stellar R&B singer can shine at a time.
11. 'A Woman's Worth' (2001)
Produced by Keys and longtime friend Erika Rose, who was credited on both 'Songs in A Minor' and 'The Diary of Alicia Keys,' this beautifully crafted ballad demonstrates what meaningful songwriting is all about. Here, the New York native boldly did what every women should: demand respect from her man. Lyrics like "She walks the mile all the while being true," "I hold you down when s--- gets rough" and "A real man just can't deny a woman's worth" are an inkling of the passion expressed on this piano-backed ballad.
10. 'Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down'
Jay-Z put a legion of fans onto the Al Shux-produced 'Empire State of Mind' and the talented force that is Alicia Keys scooped up the record to put her spin on the ode to the city that never sleeps. Besides the U.S., the song entered the charts in more than 10 other countries. With a chorus that begs to be chanted from atop the Empire State Building or walking on the Brooklyn Bridge, residents from Miami to L.A. sang along with the ubiquitous tune as if they were native New Yorkers themselves.
9. 'Like You'll Never See Me Again' (2007)
Ms. Keys soared high with this record, beating herself on her own song when 'Like You'll Never See Me Again' moved past her single 'No One' to secure a No. 1 spot on the Billboard R&B chart in 2007, making Alicia Keys the second artist since the chart began using Nielsen SoundScan data in 1992, to succeed herself at the top position. Producer Kerry "Krucial" Brothers joined the chanteuse once again to craft a song that showcased her breathy vocals over a twinkling beat supported by head-nodding drums.
8. 'How Come You Don't Call Me' (2001)
Not everyone can take a Prince record, make it their own and still keep the core much like the original. But that's what makes the 30-year-old entertainer a force to be reckoned with. Alicia Keys fans may not have known she covered the Purple One's classic tune, but they did realize she had a knack for saying exactly what was on their minds. 'How Come You Don't Call Me' was the singer's way of uniting millions of people with one universal question they kept contemplating.
7. 'You Don't Know My Name' (2007)
Kanye West assisted in crafting this lead single off Alicia's 2003 effort, 'The Diary of Alicia Keys.' A Grammy award for Best R&B Song in 2005 proved that her lyrical abilities and artistry were top-notch, besting Prince's 'Call My Name' and Usher's 'Burn,' 'Yeah!' and 'My Boo' in the category. The song, which samples the Main Ingredient's elder hit 'Let Me Prove My Love to You,' gave a new way to reference the "what if's" and "could be's" of a crush kept secret.
6. 'Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart' (2009)
Monsterous synths drive this down-tempo smash, the third single and Top 10 hit to come from Keys' LP, 'The Element of Freedom.' The ballad is a wake-up call to those wallowing in the misery of a failed relationship, with Keys knowing all too well how those one-time comforts feel. But she doesn't fall victim to emotions, as her voice works as a motivator here, pulling from within to find the strength to move on. Jeff Bhasker and Kid Cudi's former ally Plain Pat produced the track, which the Grammy-winning songstress even performed on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' in 2010.
5. 'Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)' (2009)
This song was designed to speak for those involved in that forbidden love that so many often whisper about and hide behind closed doors. Drake drew upon his knack for provocative songwriting to help out his R&B big sister on this standout ballad. "I know you once said to me, 'This is exactly how it should feel when it's meant to be'/ Time is only wasting so why wait for eventually?" are just a few of the words crooned on the Noah "40" Shebib production. After Keys' 2007 hit 'Like You'll Never See Me Again,' 'Un-Thinkable' was her first since then to land at No. 1 on the R&B charts.
4. 'Diary' (2003)
The R&B singer's universal appeal caused one retired pastor to receive a ridiculous amount of unwanted phone calls from fans guessing the correct area code after Keys shared the digits to her out-of-service number -- 489-4608 -- in 'Diary.' The Toni! Tony! Tone!-assisted track finds the soul sister crooning about trust and loyalty, likening herself to the pages in a diary. She scored a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for this one, and though she didn't walk away a winner, her tender vocals and complex musicality stood front and center, not to be overlooked.
3. 'If I Ain't Got You' (2003)
"Some people think that the physical things define what's within." While that line sums up the superficial aspect of Rodeo Drive enthusiasts and dedicated 5th Ave. shoppers, it's in stark contrast to what the song actually speaks of: loving a mate without added incentives. There's always a woman who needs "three dozen roses" to prove she's loved, but Keys focuses on a romance that is stripped down to the bare essentials. Eight years ago or 18 years from now, this smooth piano-driven ballad is one record that stands the test of time.
2. 'Fallin'' (2001)
The song that catapulted her career, this ode to a tumultuous yet pleasurable relationship had everyone from kids on the block to the granny upstairs crooning the infectious chorus. 'Fallin'' debuted on her seminal album, 'Songs in A Minor,' but almost never made the cut, as the track, which Keys penned, almost fell into the hands of another young artist when execs at Sony, her former label, wanted the R&B delight to surrender the goods. Sampling James Brown's 'It's a Man's Man's Man's World' and detailing the ups and downs of love made this one undeniable hit.
1. 'No One' (2007)
In an age where people focus less on listening to the radio and more on scouring the Internet for tunes, Alicia Keys' work speaks for itself when, in 2008, 'No One' was the most listened song on U.S. radio with 3.08 billion listeners. When she belts out her vocals, people don't change the dial. "[The song] is really talking about the way that in relationships, the way that so many things are around you all the time to try to distract you," Keys reveals of its premise. "And even though people may talk and say whatever they may want to say, but then no one can get in the way of this."