When Alicia Keys steps onto the stage at GM Place tonight everyone in attendance will be waiting for the same thing: "Fallin'."
The neo-soul singer's breakout single became one of 2001's signature songs and carried Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, into the stratosphere.
The album's sales are more than 11 million copies-and-counting and the accolades showered down upon Keys range from Rolling Stone calling her the "Next Queen of Soul Music" to Newsweek proclaiming her "the Most Influential Entertainer of the Year" in 2001.
Pretty impressive for a 21 year-old who came out of nowhere.
But what do we really know about the woman who took home the Grammys for best new artist, song of the year, best female R&B vocal performance, best R&B song and fest R&B album in 2002?
Only that her name would've been Lauryn Hill in '98.
Will Keys' career go the same way or is she the real thing?
In preparation of her Vancouver debut, here's 10 things you (maybe) didn't know about the divine Ms. Keys:
1 Born: Alicia Augello Cook, 1981, in the rough New York 'hood of Hell's Kitchen. Her mother Terri Augello is white, her father Craig Cook is black. She has a half-brother named Cole, age 11.
2 Keys says in her heart she feels black, citing experiences growing up leading her to identify with African-American culture.
3 She began piano lessons at age seven and attended the Professional Performing Arts High School. How Fame is that!
4 Credit Keys' great vocal chops to voice coach Conrad Robinson of the Harlem Police Athletic League Community Centre on 124th Street. His brother Jeff has been Alicia's manager for five years.
5 Her first record deal was with Columbia Records and rumoured to be worth $400,000 US. Columbia didn't hear any hits. Keys wasn't interested in being another Backstreet Girl. They parted company. Somewhere, right now, a former Columbia exec dives for the "off" button every time Keys comes on the radio, TV, Internet, etc.
6 Music biz legend Clive Davis bought out Keys' contract and set her up at his new J Records label. Davis' career bio was built on artists deemed "commercially non-viable." A sampling of his signings: Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Puffy, a has-been guitarist named Santana.
7 Even with Davis's clout and an aggressive marketing campaign, "Fallin'" couldn't get on the radio. Davis circumvented the airwaves and secured Keys a spot on Oprah Winfrey's TV show. The ploy worked. Requests for Songs in A Minor in the week it was released doubled.
8 Besides winning the five Grammys, Keys took home a Village Voice Music Award, two Billboard Awards, two American Music Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, three Soul Train awards, two World Music Awards, one ECCHO award. Then she turned 21.
9 Recently, rumours surfaced about Keys' sexual orientation. She told the London Sun: "Just 'cause I don't wear dresses? Give me a break. Every female has been called gay at one time. That's not who I am. I don't have a problem with anyone who is." The singer says she's seeing a 27-year-old guy whose name she's keeping to herself. Which doesn't do much to dispel the rumours.
10 Keys founded the KrucialKeys production company with her writing partner Kerry "Krucial" Brothers. Her next CD is due out in mid-'03.
Bonus: She wears size 61/2 shoes.
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