Singer, song-writer, actress, film-producing philanthropist and author.
Alicia Keys is one of those artists who writes and sings from the depths of her soul. And never more so than in her new track ‘Perfect Way to Die’. She performed it live at the BET Awards (Black Entertainment Television – you can watch it here) recently and it was one of the most poignant moments in music we’ve ever seen. Our love for the singing, song-writing, acting, film-producing philanthropist and author has peaked. It’s dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement and it’s heart-wrenchingly good. Alicia spoke of the power of music and the horrific reality of police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. She said: ‘Whether it’s spiritual or the blues, jazz, or hip-hop, music has always been the voice of the Black experience. It speaks to our resilience, our resistance, and even in the messiest of circumstances we find melody.’
Alicia wrote Perfect Way to Die with the deaths of Michael Brown and Sandra Bland in mind, but her performance at the BET Awards paid tribute to many others who have since tragically lost their lives, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
The 39-year-old New Yorker started playing the piano aged seven and later excelled in music at a prestigious performing arts school in the city. She was raised by her mother, who often worked three jobs to fund her daughter’s music lessons and indeed to survive. They lived a tough life in a very tough neighbourhood. Alicia says her success is all down to her mum: ‘Thank you for all the Sundays you played Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington on vinyl. Thank you for all the nights you worked overtime to make the ends and beginnings meet. Thank you for teaching me about womanhood and everything in between’.
By age 12, Alicia was composing her owns songs before being snapped up by a record label at just 15 years old. She went on to release her debut album ‘Songs in A Minor’ in 2001, which went platinum five times over and earned her five Grammys. If you haven’t listened to that album in years – like us – we strongly advise digging it out and cranking it up. We remember being floored by her spine-tingling vocal range when we first heard it. Such a stunning record.
Ten Grammys and five studio albums later, Alicia has also appeared in four films, produced a Broadway show, directed a movie and executive-produced a further film. Her catalogue of accomplishments is quite frankly mind-blowing. And one of her latest successes is her New York Time’s best-selling autobiography ‘More Myself’, which we are LOVING! Part narrative documentary, the book delves into her complex relationship with her father, the people-pleasing nature that characterised her early career, the loss of privacy surrounding her romantic relationships and the oppressive expectations of female perfection.
Indeed, Alicia took a stand against this very expectation of women by going make-up-free in 2016. She said: ‘It felt really empowering and really freeing. Because we put so many limitations on ourselves and think we put limitations on each other. Society puts limitations on us. And in a lot of ways, I’m sick of it. Over it, to be honest. It would be so amazing to just embrace each other how we are. I think the most important thing is you do what feels good for you.’
This is the key theme throughout her book, and it’s liberating. She struggled with self-acceptance for most of her life and finding fame at such a young age left her scared to show who she really was, for fear of rejection. Alicia talks about the journey she had to endure to finally find the strength that now defines her.
Top tip: check out the fabulous Fearne Cotton’s recent podcast with Alicia about her book. It’s a fascinating insight into her life-story and has some heart-warming moments of sisterhood between the pair. It’s a lovely listen.
Now onto Alicia’s activism. Although she’s a hero to us with her attitudes, accolades, and talent, it’s her ardent philanthropy that really makes us idolise her in 2020. She’s a FIERCE fighter for justice and equality. After Donald’s Trump inauguration in 2017, she helped lead the Women’s March in Washington. Her address to the crowd was simply sublime: ‘Let us continue to honour all that is beautiful about being feminine. We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise!’
A couple of years prior to this, Alicia launched a movement – We Are Here – to bolster the global community to encourage respect and equality. Her aim is to ensure vulnerable people are heard and treated with dignity through a host of funded initiatives with international non-profit organisations.
The artist is also the co-founder of Keep a Child Alive (KCA), a charity that partners with grass-roots organisations to combat the physical, social, and economic impact of HIV on children, their families and their communities in Africa and India.
So basically, Alicia Keys is what the world needs right now. And she’s everything we want to be. We’re so grateful to women like her who use their platform to yell about such important issues on our behalf. And she’s a brilliant role model for our growing girls with her strength, talent and determination. She’s just so damn cool. So let’s put on one of our favourite Alicia tracks, ‘This Girl is on Fire’! We are NOT biased over here at TGIOF Towers!