Source: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
With youthful sensuality and cool adult sophistication, 21-year-old Alicia Keys straddles two generations of rhythm and blues.
That's why "Fallin'" -- her megahit of last year -- landed on so many radio playlists, from urban R&B formats to adult-contemporary stations. Taking inspiration from such past greats as Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack, Keys has fashioned a sound that's both modern and retro.
At the Grammy Awards earlier this year, Keys took home five trophies, most notably song of the year for "Fallin'" (which she wrote herself) and best new artist.
The native New Yorker is on her first arena tour, having graduated in a very short time from the club circuit. Backed by a 13-piece band, the singer-pianist performs tomorrow night at 8 p.m. at KeyArena. Opening act is R&B singer Donell Jones.
The show features songs from Keys' hugely successful debut album, "Songs in A Minor," which has sold more than 8 million copies. It includes such songs as "Piano & I," "Girlfriend" (written by producer Jermaine Dupri), "Troubles," "Rock Wit U," "A Woman's Worth" and Prince's "How Come U Don't Call Me."
What remains to be seen is how Keys fills out her 90-minute set with additional songs. With her sophomore album more than a year away, Keys may choose to add a few R&B or blues hits of the past. There's word that her set includes a fine version of Leon Russell's "A Song for You."
On her current tour, the charming but assertive star is surrounded by keyboards, which she plays on nearly every song. But you won't likely see Keys hiding behind them: She likes to interact with her fans, whom she calls "family."
Among the standouts in her colorful set is "How Come U Don't Call Me," featured in a little skit involving a pay phone.
Though "Fallin'" has dropped off Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, Keys is still on the chart as a guest performer on "Gangsta Lovin'" by Eve. Her talents as a songwriter, singer and pianist have made her an in-demand guest performer.
For the record, Keys has won five Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, one MTV Video Music Award, one Billboard Music Award, two Soul Train Awards and -- whew! -- best new artist at the recent BET Awards.
Keys has earned so much respect in the otherwise cookie-cutter world of current R&B and hip-hop that she's popping up on a lot of favorite-artist lists. Her latest coup is topping the Vibe 100 Juice list in the magazine's ninth anniversary issue of top artists. Calling Keys "simply irresistible," Vibe describes her as "a superstar who doesn't require the fanfare that comes with the fame."
It's always heartening to learn that a big pop star is also a decent, down-to-earth human being. She avoids the trappings of fame and fortune, fearing they'll distract her from the music she loves. Frugal despite her sudden wealth, Keys drives a well-worn late-model Mazda Millenium. She often shops alone, startling fans who can't believe such a major star would be wandering around loose.
"If you don't act grand and attract attention," she told Vibe, "people don't really get crazy."
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