Alexander McQueen wool jacket, Ellen Christine hat, Versace ringIt's been 10 years since her landmark album, Songs In A Minor, and the career-defining hit single Fallin. Alicia Keys was 20 years old back in 2001 when her debut album was released: “I just wanted to be who I was, which was like so many other girls I knew,” says Alicia Keys. “We grew up in the city, had a hard edge and obstacles to overcome, but we were still young and beautiful. I didn’t want to be all dressed up, all made up—I wanted to be myself, which hadn’t been done before.”
To celebrate Songs in A Minor’s 10th anniversary, Keys has assembled a deluxe edition featuring early demos, alternate takes, and live recordings from the era, including a classical medley and a sultry cover of “Light My Fire.” The package documents the five-year life of the landmark project, which covered most of the singer’s adolescence.
Keys recalls the struggle that she went through back then, as a young, unknown artist, to remain true to her own style and sound and the frustration she felt at being pushed, over and over, toward a more conventional style: “I was a young girl with very strong ideas but no experience,” she says. “I just knew that everything else I was doing was wrong—that all the suggestions weren’t what was in my mind, they weren’t what it was meant to be.”
“How terrible would it have been if I had come out with some watered-down version of who I am?” she says. “People fell in love with the real me, and I still feel blessed that that was how the journey began.”
By Alan Light
Photographs by Mario Sorrenti
Courtesy of W Magazine