Come Away With Alicia Keys, One Of Music's Hottest

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Miss Moon
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Postby Miss Moon » Tue Aug 13, 2002 12:45 pm

Source: The Seattle Times

Alicia Keys has got it all.

She's gorgeous, gifted and smart, with a great sense of fashion and style. And she's only 21.

Looking at pictures of her, you might think she's just another J.Lo or Britney. She certainly could pull off the sexy stuff they depend on, but Keys actually has talent. Remarkably so. She's one of the most promising new pop stars to emerge in years.

The singer-pianist has achieved remarkable success with the release of only one album, "Songs in A Minor," which came out in June 2001 and has sold 8 million copies worldwide. She swept the Grammys earlier this year, winning five awards, including best new artist, R&B song and song of the year, the latter two for "Fallin'," a soulful, achingly beautiful love ballad from her album.

She's on the cover of the September issue of Vibe, in revealing black lace. She's got "juice," the hip-hop magazine's term for power in the music business. She's No. 1 on Vibe's ninth annual list of "the 100 hottest people, places and things."

Keys seemed to arrive as a fully formed phenomenon. Her CD debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and "Fallin' " soon was No. 1 on the singles chart. Both are still selling, well over a year later.

But Keys' album debut came after years of rumors and hype, and a few singles that only hinted at her impressive talents.

She was signed to Columbia Records in 1997, at age 16, but got out of her contract when the label insisted she accept songs from other writers. Before she got out, Columbia issued a sampler CD to radio stations and industry mover and shakers, with Keys represented by her song "Who's That Girl," which she sings in a lower octave than is heard on "Songs in A Minor." The cut got little notice and virtually no airplay.

She also was working out her vocal style in another cut, "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Things)," which ended up on the 1997 "Men in Black" soundtrack album. She sings in a high voice, almost falsetto, on the song, which did get some notice and airplay.

But it was on the 2000 soundtrack to "Shaft II" that Keys hit her stride, with the upbeat cut "Rock Wit U." The song led to solo performances by Keys in major nightclubs in New York and Los Angeles, which got rave reviews, and caused much anticipation for her debut album — on which she also included the cut. A pre-album release of the "Fallin' " single set up "Songs in A Minor" for its No. 1 debut.

Music-industry great Clive Davis, after helping Keys get out of her Columbia deal, signed her to Arista Records. When Arista fired Davis, he went off and started J Records, and brought Keys along with him. His "juice" has greatly boosted her career.

Keys is a classically trained pianist who started her studies at age 7. The daughter of an Italian-American mother and African-American father, who abandoned the family when Keys was 2, she grew up in the tough Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan. (Born Alicia Augello Cook, she has legally changed her name to Keys.)

As a child, she listened to her mother's eclectic record collection, which ranged from Motown and R&B to jazz and classical music, a mix Keys displays in her varied songwriting.

Playing in piano recitals as a child, she stood out because of her obvious skills and love of performing. Her mother, Terri Augello, a paralegal and aspiring actress, helped her become a top student in school, taught her about the ups and downs of show business, and even offered business advice. She's still Keys' chief adviser.

Despite Keys' mammoth talents, she still has only one album out, which doesn't give her much material to work with as a headliner. (She started recording a new album in April, which is set to be released in mid-2003, but, so far, has not debuted any new songs in concert.) So she is bringing a revue with her, which includes a 10-piece band, three background singers, three dancers and two rappers. Keys is onstage for only about half of the two-hour set, turning the stage over to the others for long lengths of time.

Opening here is Donell Jones, a singer from Chicago whose new single, "You Know That I Love You," from his third album, "Life Goes On," is rising in the charts.

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