Alicia Keys Explains Why Her New Double Album Feels Like 'A Homecoming'

By Hayden Brooks

December 10, 2021

Photo: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio

With seven albums under her belt, Alicia Keys wanted to do something different with her latest project, Keys, so she split the album into two parts: the Originals half featuring self-produced songs with "laidback piano vibes" and the Unlocked half with some of the same tracks with "upbeat, drums and level up” songs, courtesy of Mike Will Made-It. In celebration of the project, the singer/songwriter performed material from the album and treated fans to some classic tracks during her iHeartRadio Album Release Party.

During the one-hour performance, which aired on Thursday night (December 9) and was hosted by iHeartRadio's Shay Diddy, the singer/songwriter appeared next to her glittery piano in a pink and black ensemble. With a live back and an intimate backdrop with red lighting and chandeliers, the star spoke about the concept project: "It's like a homecoming. It's all about the piano. It's all about that penmanship, that musicality and actually it's a double album," Keys told the host, before breaking down their sonic differences. While Keys described the first side of the project as "super soulful, piano-driven," she went on to explain how she and the super-producer took the originals, sampled it, and "created this whole other energy and perspective of what these songs can sound like." "You get to enter it and find all these different ways to hear it and it's so crazy."

In addition to singing catalog staples tracks like "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)," "Diary," "Like You'll Never See Me Again," "No One," "If I Ain't Got You," "You Don't Know My Name," as well as "In Common and "Wasted Energy" as part of her 2020 effort, Alicia, the powerhouse made her new material the star of the show. In order to demonstrate the sonics of the double album, Keys offered up new tracks like "Old Memories," "Come for Me," "Best of Me," "Is It Insane, "Only You," and "Skydive," and went back and forth between both versions for some tracks.

While the colossal collection features Pusha T ("Plentiful") and Brand Carlile ("Paper Flowers") on Originals, the alternate Unlocked side includes Swae Lee ("Lala (Unlocked)), Lil Wayne ("Nat King Cole") and Khalid and Lucky Daye ("Come for Me").

Mid-performance of "Wasted Energy," the singer made note that she wasn't able to tour in support of her last studio effort, so she'd be hitting the road in the summer of 2022. The upcoming set is bound to make for a dynamic concert as Keys will likely venture into the performance similar to her iHeartRadio Album Release Party, where she offered the crowd the power of the performance. Did they want a classic Alicia Keys sound? Did they want a darker reinterpretation from the singer? Either way, Keys made it known that after 20 years her creativity still has no boundaries.

"This song is about letting go of all your inibition, making sure that there are no ceilings above you," she told the audience prior to venturing into the James Bond-theme orchestration of "Nat King Cole." "Nobody can make you doubt yourself. You get to be our most magnificient right here tonight."

Photo: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio
Photo: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio
Photo: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio
Photo: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio
Photo: Wes and Alex for iHeartRadio
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