Saturday, June 22, 2024


Ever since she burst onto the scene in 2001 — winning an astonishing five Grammys, including best new artist, for her debut album “Songs in A Minor” — Alicia Keys has been counted among the most celebrated and critically acclaimed figures in popular music. Known worldwide as a singer, songwriter, producer, actress, philanthropist and businesswoman, Keys has sold more than 30 million albums, starred in three films (including “The Secret Life of Bees”) and attached her name to several charitable organizations (she is the co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, which provides lifesaving HIV/AIDS drugs to families in Africa). On the eve of her Freedom Tour’s arrival in Las Vegas, on April 9 at Mandalay Bay, the 28-year-old New York City native recently spoke to Black Image about her art and where she finds inspiration.

What can we expect from your Freedom Tour?
The touring concert will be a beautiful kind of place. It will obviously be focused around music — which is always my main focus — and then it will tell a story that I want to communicate and the energy I want to give. There are a lot of dimensions to the show, and it will take you to a lot of different places and leave you with emotions that I am feeling.

How many of today’s hardships are communicated in your new album, “The Element of Freedom,” and how much of what’s going on around the world has inspired your music?

So much of what’s going on in our world inspires me and my music. I have always been a very empathetic person and it’s so natural to me. When you see devastation like we recently saw in Haiti and Chile, you hurt for the people being affected. So, I think naturally it does influence the music. It also influences the stories that I want to tell, and the things that I want to talk about. Even in my tour, and through the show, there is an energy, message and emotions that I want everybody to leave with. Although everyone will feel something different — because we are all different — the global human race has always been important to me. I think one day I’ll find a very interesting way to really write songs that are … more obviously about certain situations. But for now, my heart and how it feel inspires me to write, and hopefully people feel that inspiration.

When you first recorded “Empire State of Mind” with Jay-Z, did you know it would be such a big hit?
When we first recorded the song, I really felt it. I didn’t quite know exactly what it was, but I knew it was really strong. Even in its initial rawest form, I said, “Wow” — I knew it was special. I feel that the world felt it, too. Something is really great about singing a song that (expresses) that kind of sentiment of being able to make it and achieve your dreams. I am sometimes shocked over the tremendous way it has been embraced and continues to be.

Who else would you like to collaborate with?
Oh my goodness. There are a lot of people that I’d love to perform with. I’d love to perform or sit in a room with Herbie Hancock. I think that would be pretty crazy. I always wished that I got a chance to sit in a room with Ray Charles … before he passed away. I was kind of sad about that. Obviously, there are so many legendary people I’d love to work with. I would love to collaborate with Sade. I think that would be insane.

If there is ever a movie about Lena Horne, you should play the lead.
Well, thank you so much.

Tell us about your own piano that is being designed with Yamaha and being put out on the market?
Yes, I am very excited about it. It is software that I’m doing with a company called Native Instruments and it samples the exact piano that I’ve used on most of my albums and in the studio. The software is called “Alicia Keys,” and you will be able to upload it into your computer and be able to play it. So, for those who just have a keyboard and not a real piano, you can use the software and make beautiful sounds like a piano. I love it. I used it for everything that I’ve done, and actually my entire album’s piano sounds came from the software. It’s really beautiful and I’m definitely overwhelmed by it. You can go to my Web site,, to get more information about it.

What can young people from around the world take from their own inner-city or impoverished upbringing that can contribute to their own creative development?
I think that no matter where you’re from, and no matter what situations you’ve been through, it is important to use your surroundings as the fuel that ignites you to believe that there is more to this world than what is just in front of you. You really need to go farther, study harder, learn more and be better to find the most you can about yourself and those around you. Surround yourself with people who want more out of life, and are really positive and strong. Some of the most incredible people have been through some of the most tragic situations. They are brilliant and unstoppable, and they don’t use their situations as excuses. They build and they grow to create some of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. I think that using it as fuel is the key. It is never about the materialistic things that make us who we are. It’s always the character.

What can we expect from your Las Vegas performance this month?
You’ll always get something different every night, because every night is like its own special night. The way the show is put together is so beautiful and interesting that Vegas will love it just the same.

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