On Tuesday, R&B icon Alicia Keys announced her new album Keys (out Dec. 10) that, as she describes in the captions of a TikTok, “will have two types of songs.” The “Original” version has “laidback piano vibes,” while the “Unlocked” version promises “upbeat, drums, level up vibes.”
“I describe it like a Saturday and a Sunday,” the Grammy-winning musician tells EW. “One [side], you rock Saturday, and one you rock on Sunday and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s an incredible experience.”
With fans finally getting the full picture of the concept behind Keys, with the release of both the “Original” and “Unlocked” versions of her single “Best of Me” out now, Keys shared more insight on the inspiration and logistics behind the upcoming double album she calls a “homecoming.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When and how did the idea for Keys come about?
ALICIA KEYS: The pandemic hit, and a lot of people would ask me when it first started, “Are you feeling so creative? Are you stuck in the house just creating everything?” And I actually wasn’t. I didn’t feel creative at all. I had lost my center and didn’t really know how to find peace. It started to get quite uncomfortable and frustrating because how do we all return to some form of normalcy, right? Obviously, we couldn’t tour and do all the normal things that we could do. So I did get right back in and I knew that I wanted to do this album called Keys. I’ve known it for years. It’s been ready for five years, this concept, and this album really focusing on the piano and being about the songs and the rawness. And as I started to create it, I realized that it was a homecoming for me because it brought me back to that center that I was looking for but couldn’t quite find for a minute there. It’s so grounded in songwriting and raw expression. I didn’t worry about production. I didn’t worry about anything. It was all about the piano and creating songs that made you feel. And as we were creating, it did actually flow pretty effortlessly.
And as we were flowing through it, myself and my engineer Ann Mincieli — she’s been with me for a long time and is a super badass magician — we started conversating about this concept about these two worlds. There’s so many sides to all of us, and that’s a lot of what I’m always thinking about, and exploring in my own life and music. So we started talking about putting together a whole other side of the Keys universe, and she suggested I connect with [rap producer] Mike Will. And when I connected with Mike Will, it was instant vibes. So I had this whole body of work that we were calling Keys, and I wanted to see what would happen if I sampled myself. Like if you found a vintage Nina Simone record and you wanted to sample it and give it another energy, what would it sound like? That’s literally the concept of Keys. So Keys is the whole body of work. And then inside of Keys, there’s the “Originals,” which is all that music that was all about the piano and that rawness. And then there’s “Unlocked,” which is myself and Mike Will sampling myself, and coming up with this whole other sound.Read the rest of this entry »