The Biography and Composition History of: Alicia Keys By: Sophia Okada1
2 3/24/2012 Introduction When considering one of R&B’s most talented musicians, Alicia Keys can bereflected as one of the most inspiring of her time. Her music is rooted from gospel, soul andclassical piano, which gives the average R&B style a sense of refreshing refinement. Some of herearly influences include, Stevie Wonder, Barbara Streisand, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway andPrince. Alicia’s lyrics are mostly about matters of the heart and her voice has been noted as, raw,strong and passionate. She has frequently been mentioned as the “Princess of Soul” and with avocal range of three octaves, it is no wonder why. She has sold over 30 million albums worldwideand has won over 100 awards including, Grammy’s, Billboard Music, American Music, WorldMusic and the Golden Note, by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
3 3/24/2012 Biography Alicia Keys was born as Alicia Augello Cook, in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattanon January 25, 1981. Her parents Teresa Augello and Craig Cook, separated when Aliciawas two, and she was then raised by her mom, which most likely inspired many of herwomen empowered songs. As a girl, Alicia participated in dance and music, andenrolled at the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of twelve where shestudied Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven. At age 14 she started writing her own musicand by age 16 she had graduated as valedictorian.
4 3/24/2012 Career Beginning’s After graduating high school, Alicia was accepted into ColumbiaUniversity where she spent just four weeks before dropping out to pursueher dream of becoming an artist. In 1997 her career began with a demodeal with Jermaine Dupri and So So Def Recordings where she co-wroteand recorded “Dah Dee Dah”. This was her first professional recording butwas never released because of disagreements with her label.
5 3/24/2012 Songs in A Minor After a disappointingexperience with So So Def Recordings shechanged labels to J Records, and in 2001she released, “Songs in A Minor”, her firststudio album, which became number one onthe Billboard 200. This album sold 236,000copies, just in the first week and wentPlatinum six times by the RecordingIndustry Association of America.
6 3/24/2012 In 2003, Alicia released The Diary of Aliciaher next album, The Diary of Alicia KeysKeys, which sold a staggering618,000 copies within the first week,making her the sixth largest sellingalbum by a female and second as anR&B artist. The Diary of AliciaKeys won four Grammy’s and wentfour times Platinum, with songs like,“If I Ain’t Got You” and “You Don’tKnow My Name”. Click to hear a sample
7 3/24/2012Unplugged Alicia’s next album, Unplugged was released in 2005, and it received another Platinum certification by RIAA. It reached the Billboard Hot 100 and sold 196,00 in its first week. This release was special because its debut generated the highest amount of viewers since Nirvana, and was the first by a female artist to debut as number one.
8 3/24/2012 As I AmDuring 2006 Alicia experienced a mentalbreakdown due to her grandma’s death andpressures from heavily reliant family members.She decided she needed a break and vacationedin Egypt for three weeks before returning torelease yet another album, As I Am, in 2007.This album gave Alicia her largest sale ever,selling a whopping, 742,000 copies in its firstweek and certified three times Platinum.
9 3/24/2012Success in Life After a successful career in music, Alicia went on to marry Swizz Beatz in July 2010, and gave birth to a boy named Egypt Daoud Ibarr Dean on October 14, 2010. Some of her critics have said her ability to write is limited and that she sounds like she is pushing her voice too hard. But all imperfections aside, there is no denying the class that she has given to R&B.
10 3/24/2012Composition History “Never Felt This Way” was released in 2001 as part of Alicia Keys first studio album, Songs in A Minor. Although this particular song was not as popular as some of the other songs on the album, it is still one of my personal favorites. The words and music are actually by Brian McKnight and Brandon Barnes.
11 3/24/2012Analysis of Never Felt This Way 0:00 Introduction The song starts off with the piano playing the motif solo in4/4. This melody is played for the first twelve bars and thenrepeated, with a vocal introduction at the end of the 12th. Thepiano continues to play the melody and the melody becomesmore apparent as verse 1 begins. 0:30 Verse 1 The lyrics start out with accompaniment from the pianowhich is playing at a mezzo- forte in harmony with the vocalists.The timbre of the treble clef presents textual contrast, at the thirdand fifth bar as the piano’s mode changes from an F to a C. Thepiano begins to create dissonance which finds resolution Thepoetry is simple with every sixth word rhyming with the timbre.
12 3/24/2012 Continued 0:56 Verse 2 The melody begins to move expressively faster as the formchanges from being played all in treble clef to a base clef melody.The texture of the sounds and rhythm quickens as the vocals areheld out longer during the base clefs melody making the pianosound rougher and the vocals smoother. At the end of this verse, thepiano slows down and the vocals become softer. 1:30 Bridge The bridges melody begins, once again in treble cleff, as it isrepeated after the ninth bar once before fading into the Seque to thenext song. I wonder if this song is strophic, because I could not puta finger on a chorus. 2:01 Seque to next song
13 3/24/2012Composition History“Butterflyz” is part of Alicia’s album, Songs inA Minor. It is not very popular, but the pianomusic is one of my favorites. This song wasreleased, in 2001, and the words and musicare written by Alicia. This was one of thehardest songs to understand for me.
14 3/24/2012 Analysis of Butterflyz 0:00 Introduction The piano plays with the acoustic guitar in mezzo piano and changesto F Major after the fourth measure. The vocalist harmonizes in thebackground during the pianos arpeggios and the intro is repeated. Verse1 0:26 Vocalist starts singing harmony at the end of the first measure whilethe acoustic guitar and the piano play contrasting notes and beats, addingtimbre and texture. The piano and guitar play off of each other in scales orarpeggios, and chords, each playing in harmony with the vocalist. Chorus 0:50 The chorus is introduced with the bass added along with the pianoand guitar. The bass starts playing more of a beat with the bass cleff onthe paino, and the guitar plays a separate melody but is still in harmony.The piano once again changes to F major after the fourth measure.
15 3/24/2012 Continued Chorus 0:50 The chorus is introduced with the bass added along with the piano and guitar.The bass starts playing more of a beat with the bass cleff on the paino, and theguitar plays a separate melody but is still in harmony. The piano once againchanges to F major after the fourth measure. Verse2 1:14 Verse two begins with the same melody for the piano, guitar and vocalist asthe first verse, but the music begins building up and becomes even more expressiveas the piano plays more solid chords and the guitar once again plays the beat withthe bass clef on the piano. Chorus 1:38 The chorus begins at the end of the 16th measure of verse two. It is repeatedafter the 7th measure with the guitar playing a melody while the pianos bass clefplays the beat. Bridge1 2:03 The bridge almost sounds like a scherzo in a sonata, because it lightens themood of the song. The bridge is played for 16 measures before going into what Ithink is another bridge.
16 3/24/2012Analysis Continued Bridge2 2:28 The piano plays a diminution for two measures as the bass once againis apparent, keeping the beat and playing the same melody as the pianosbass clef. The piano adds timbre by hitting a higher note at the end of thefourth measure. D.S. al coda 2:52 The D.S. al coda sounds like another repeat of the chorus but it isactually the ending of the song. The bass once again plays the beat whilethe piano and guitar play off of each other and the vocalist, giving thesong texture, and at the same time building up tension. The backup singersstart and the music moves like water almost as the instruments and vocalsmove in different beats and notes but still in harmony. This is the mostpassionate moment of the song, as the vocals sing a variation. The tensionis finally released by a final chord in D Major. End 4:07
17 3/24/2012Composition History “LovinU” is part of Alicia’s first album, Songs in A Minor as well. The music and words are written by Alicia and was released in 2001.
18 3/24/2012 Analysis of Lovin U Intro 0:00 This song starts in 4/4 in mezzo forte with the piano playingsimple chords , up and down the scale for four measures and onthe end of the fifth measure the beat changes to ¾ as verse onebegins. Verse1 0:19 Vocals, drums and bass start off but gradually you areintroduced t backup singer and violins playing pizzicato andbowing with the beat as well as harmonizing with the bass. Thismelody is repeated before going on to the bridge. Bridge1 0:43 Starts on the ninth measure with the chords at the beginning ofeach measure held for two beats. The chords are not played by thepiano but instead and organ. The violins, bass and drums take amore dominant role as the chorus begins.
19 3/24/2012 Continued Chorus 0:54 Vocals begin in harmony with the drums and bass being the most prevalent. The chorus issung for 18 measures before the violins get louder as the second verse begins. Verse2 1:16 Vocals, drums, violins, begin but an organ is once again apparent at the beginning of theseventh measure. The melody is repeated with the ending of this verse building more tension asthe bridge is introduced. Bridge2 1:38 The piano and organ are being played, while the drums and bass keep beat and the violinscome in stronger adding texture to the melody. Chorus1 1:49 The vocals sing in harmony while the violins play with the bass and the drums keep the ¾rhythm. The main theme, “lovin you” is stated twice before going into the coda. Coda 2:11 The coda begins in F Major on the piano, as the violin, bass, drums and backup singerharmonize and create more tension as the backup singers repeat the main theme 6 times whileAlicia adds vocal adlib until the song fades out. End 3:48
20 3/24/2012 Works CitedAliciaKeysBiography.com. Alicia Keys: 10thAnniversary Edition Songs in AMinor,2011.Web. 2 June 2011.AliciaKeys.com. Alicia Keys As I Am TheOfficial Alicia Keys Site, Sony Music, 2011.Web. 2June 2011.