Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Her New Album ‘ALICIA’, the Significance of Verzuz, and More / WATCH

*Alicia Keys joins Zane Lowe on Apple Music for a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the release of her seventh studio album ALICIA, out this Friday.

She tells Apple Music what she took for granted prior to the pandemic and reflects on struggles with early success, self worth, and her relationship with her parents growing up.

She also runs through various tracks on the new album and shares what she’s learned from her husband Swizz Beatz, how her willingness to collaborate has evolved, why Verzuz is “our survival tool”, how she ended up collaborating with Jill Scott, and more.

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music What She Took For Granted Prior To The Pandemic…

Prior to the last six months, I definitely took for granted stillness, just like how good it is to be in one place, to be able to really dig in, dive in, stay put. I don’t know if it’s a very American philosophy, or if it’s a very not New York mind state. I’m trying to figure out what it is, but there’s a certain mind state that the busier you are, the better you are. And that’s a lie. That’s a real live lie. And so, this time to just be still, because you can’t be busy if you tried. I mean, you could Zoom all you want, and sure, you can still have a lot to do over Zoom, but the moving, why did we have to rush so much? How come we had to fill our gas tank that many times and fly that many times a year, and put that much gas in the sea? And all these things, definitely the stillness I took for granted.

I took for granted what it means to actually have your hub and have your space with your people there, and that you’re always showing up for each other, no matter what. You’re figuring out the hard things, and you’re talking through. A lot of the times, moving so fast, I’m always concerned about, am I missing some of these conversations? Am I missing some of these moments with my family?

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Early Success… 

A lot of the times, you’re kind of pushed to blend in or do what’s expected, and you feel awkward if you even have a dissenting point of view. And for me, I fell right into that whole trap. Oh, I fell so good into that trap because I was so young. I was 14 years old the first time that I was ever even signed. And when the first record came out, I was 18 years old. It was like, whap. It was just, that was it. I had to pretend so much the majority of the time that I knew what I was doing. I pretended I knew what I was doing for so much of the time. I didn’t know what I was doing.

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Zane Lowe & Alicia Keys
Zane Lowe & Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Pleasing People…

Whoo, and the craziest part is, at some point, you don’t even know if what you’re doing is for you, or is it for the person that is next to you. And you think it’s for you. But as you start to live, you start to discover, man, a lot of this was for you. Of course, there’s a flow there and there’s an ebb there, and it benefits both. And of course, there’s an energy exchange, which I really believe in energy is so powerful. But you can, and I did, turn around. And I was so concerned with pleasing everybody, so concerned with saying the right thing, so concerned with not kind of getting caught up or tripped up in the people trying to have these sensational headlines. I was so cautious and so protected, and had such a wall that was perfect. Who are you underneath all that? What is your opinion? Do you even know what your opinion is? I found that, no, I didn’t. And that was not good. But it took me a long time to even know I didn’t have an opinion. Because I thought I was quite opinionated. I’m like, woman’s worth, right? I’m supposed to… But underneath it all, I was quite insecure.

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Titling Her Album ‘ALICIA’…

So deep, so deep. This is so deep. I feel like I think about this a lot. I specifically think about this a lot with the Alicia album. And that’s why I feel so strongly about calling this work Alicia. Because I feel like I have, for the first time, been most fully myself now. In the beginning, I was very myself. I really was. Although I was unsure of this crazy world that I was in and I definitely didn’t know the rules or how to do it or exactly what I was doing, I was very sure of myself. I knew that I was a young woman. I’m boyish. I’m not trying to be all pretty and girly. I got my piano. I got my songs. I got my braids. Don’t try to make me do this. Don’t talk to me about that. Don’t bring me no flower dresses and sh-t. This is me. Take me or leave me, I don’t care. And then success came. I had never been successful before and everybody was there, and I was going places I’d never been before, and I was meeting people I never met before. And they were telling me things I never heard before. I was having experiences that I would never have experienced before. And people liked what I did. So then, when it came time to do it again, for the first time in my life, I had been exposed to what it feels like when people like what you do. And then you start to think, well, what if people don’t like what I do? Then what?

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Self Worth and Her Relationship With Her Parents Growing Up…

I realized that I have deeply struggled with feelings of self-worth. That came from my mother and father. They… My father didn’t raise me, my mother raised me. I think I definitely was always looking for his love, to some degree, and feeling like I could never really access it, for many different reasons. And I think that started to give me insecurities. My mother was also a very, very strong-minded woman, mostly out of necessity, because to survive New York City streets as a single mother, it’s hard as hell with a daughter. So, out of necessity, she’s very emotions on her sleeve. And so then, I had to accommodate for her, and always kind of fix and dodge and make things right Somehow, I lost my voice in there. Because I always had to accommodate for the protection of that relationship, to allow that relationship to function. I had to accommodate her. Because her style was her own. And she took up a lot of space in the room, you know what I mean? So, I learned that behavior. And so, on top of, I think the fact that I felt maybe unloved by my father, although I never admitted it. I didn’t feel like I did because I was like, “Well, I don’t really even know you, so how could I feel loved or unloved by someone you don’t really know?” I did. And so, I felt I created and started to discover an insecurity that I carried with me my whole… I mean, literally, it has been maybe four years that I finally don’t hold that anymore.

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About What She’s Learned From Working With Her Husband Swizz Beatz…

I mean, he’s taught me so much about magic. He knows how to access the magic in a way that’s so free. I know how to access the magic. Don’t get it twisted. But my access to the magic is from a more cerebral place. He teaches me about this openness to try whatever, whereas I’m quite mental. I’m like, “I’m want to make sure this sounds great. Let me make sure this is the right hook. Let me make sure my vocals are strong.” He’s just like, “Who cares, who cares, who cares? This is what I feel. This is what I think. I don’t care. No apology. Bang.” So, that’s what I think. That’s why I think you feel that rawness, and there is that difference. I feel safer, somehow, to just fail, to be off, to be wrong.

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About ‘Here’ Being Her Favorite Album of Hers and How It Opened Doors For Her…

‘Here’ is maybe my favorite album. It’s so special to me. It carries with it such a magic, such a portal. It was the first time that I did something without compromise. None. I didn’t give a sh-t. Don’t come in here talking to me about what’s the radio single. I don’t want to hear it. This is my whole everything poured out from me, no holds barred, completely free. The way that the songs came, it was like it came down from a divine thing, and it was like, boom, and they would get written in 20 minutes. And I never wrote like that before, I told you. So it was my opening. It was definitely my opening. And it lead me to here, Alicia, because I started to understand, “Wow, look at all these feelings that you have. Look at all these thoughts that you have. Look at all these opinions you have. Look at all these ways that you’re experiencing the world, look how you can verbalize, and look how you can put them into, something that means something.” And it was just the right combination of people, and the timing, and the space. And it really did open something in me that I never accessed before.

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Collaboration…

It’s always been tricky for me, collaboration. At the very beginning I hated it so much. I was so uncomfortable. I just didn’t know how to even sit in a room with another being. I felt completely exposed. It was just too much. But over time, I’ve definitely learned to enjoy that process, and I do enjoy it because there’s something so crazy about what I bring, and then what you bring is going to be completely different, and there’s something about the merging of energy that’s fascinating to me. And now, I feel like that’s another alchemy that’s created that I love the process of. So yes, and that process of being open and receiving and what’s meant to come from each person and creating something out of nothing is always incredible.

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Verzuz and Working With Jill Scott…

First of all, what the hell with my baby and Tim in this Verzuz situation? It’s our survival tool. It has been our survival, and I live with him and I know what’s coming. I know what’s coming. So I was saying he did the daggone Jill Scott/ Erykah Badu Verzuz, which was my personal favorite. I’m bugging like crazy. I’m driving home from wherever and I’m listening to the thing through the car. And I mean I’m fan-girling out all the way. I’m singing every word, I’m bugging. I get to the crib, get out, continue, it’s like a whole thing, and I’m watching these two queens and Jill and that daggone smile. What is that? That smile is the most beautiful thing I ever saw. She is illuminating everything. And after the thing was over… he’s like, “Babe, Jill is on the phone.” And I get on the phone with her and I’m like, “You’re just… This is crazy. You’re so…” And she’s like, “Hi, how are you? This was so great.” And we have a moment. And I’m like, “Why haven’t we worked together? Why haven’t we? This is crazy.” And so she’s like, “I know, and I hope to come, and let’s connect.” And I said, “Yes, let’s connect.” Boom, left it alone. Go to that end part of the album where I went away by myself and I was like, “Wait, what do we need? And what are we doing?” Went to this super desolate area and was just totally alone. And Swizzy, he’s like, “Babe, what about this vibe?” And I’m like, “Ooh.” And we start talking about this idea of celebrating putting love on display and being that confident and that much of… You have to put this love on display. And we’re vibing, we’re vibing, I’m like, “Ooh, what if it was like this, like some Jill Scott sh-t.” And I start pretending to be Jill Scott. I’m just totally pretending to be Jill Scott. And I put it down, and he’s like, “Ooh. Send it to her. Send it to her right now.” And so, my engineer, Ann Mincieli been with me forever and is such a boss. She’s like, “Wait, what are we calling the song?” And I was like, “Call it Joe Scott. Because I don’t want to forget. Don’t forget, because I know I’m going to send it to Jill. Call it Joe Scott.” Boom. Called it Joe Scott, talked to Jill, we have an amazing thing. She’s so unbelievable. She’s like, “Okay. You want me to do it?” She did it. Went out of her way, sorted it out, sent it back, called me like, “What you did was so cool. I was thinking, maybe I’ll just do a few backgrounds.” I said, “No, no, no, no, no. No. What I did was pretended to be you. I need you to be you.” And she was like, “Okay.” Came back, killed it, as per normal. And Ann did these sick background vocals, it was so outrageous. If you could hear the difference you could hear her mind, which is just ridiculous. And so then, we’re at the remastering, and we’re calling in this Joe Scott, featuring Joe Scott. I was like, “Definitely.”

Alicia Keys Tells Apple Music About Being Held On a Pedestal…

I remember that there was a very specific time. Maybe it was about “Girl on Fire” maybe, that I actually understood that somehow I was put up on this pedestal. And I didn’t know the I got up there. So who put me on that pedestal? Who put me up there? I don’t want to be up there. I don’t even belong up there. That’s not even natural to my – It’s horrible. It’s like this unrealistic expectation. You can imagine you’re supposed to be there and you’re supposed to be stone. You’re supposed to be unflawed like stone. You’re suppose to be perfectly crafted, and shaped, and sculpted into a thing that can’t even move, or evolve, or change, or grow, or anything. And I did not understand how I got up there, because I never wanted to be up there.








Sam Citron




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