Alicia Keys was first introduced to music lovers, more specifically neo soul and r&b fanatics, nearly two decades ago with the release of her debut studio album Songs in A Minor, on June 5, 2001. The 16-track award-winning album features songs such as “Fallin’” and “Girlfriend,” and later went platinum five times over, making it one of the Keys’ most successful albums to date.
Keys' later musical efforts and her overall approach to the art, in addition to her sultry tomboy style, made her a top contender in the genre. In honor of the upcoming 2021 Soul Train Music Awards, we took a look back at some of Keys’ most memorable records, and created a list of five songs by the singer-songwriter that no neo-soul playlist can’t be without.
“If I Ain’t Got You”
Keys’ 2003 single “If I Ain’t Got You” appeared on her album that found the songstress diving deeper into the realms of r&b and soul. With lyrics like “Hand me the world on a silver platter and what good would it be, with no one to share, with no one who truly cares for me” the song sat pretty at the number one spot on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for six weeks.
"You Don't Know My Name"
With rapper Mos Def as the leading man, who could forget this Chris Robinson and Andrew Young directed visual. “You Don’t Know My Name” found our girl Keys trying to muster up the courage to ask her crush out who barely even knew she existed--the stuff r&b records are made of. Not to mention, where else are you going to get restaurant confessions from a city waitress over a 60's and 70's-inspired r&b sound.
Together with longtime collaborator, songwriter Kerry “Krucial” Brothers, Tony! Toni! Toné! and Jermaine Paul with the assist on background vocals, Keys created the ultimate slow jam with this 2004 record that found her trying to earn the trust of her potential romantic partner with lyrics like “I will keep your secrets. Just think of me as the pages in your diary.”
“Like You’ll Never See Me Again”
Keys and Brothers reunite again for this ballad inspired by Keys’ grandmother who was ill and not doing well at the time, the songstress revealed to Jada Pinkett Smith during an episode of Red Table Talk. Keys sang of living every moment as if it were your last because tomorrow isn't promised. “When I wrote this song, a lot of people thought it was about the love of a boyfriend or a man, but this was really about my love for her,” she told the host at the time.
If this globally successful gem is left off an ultimate neo-soul playlist, it strikes as a cause for concern. “Fallin’” is arguably Keys' signature song and became one of the best-selling singles of 2001. The track ultimately won the singer three Grammys, including "Song of the Year", "Best R&B Song", and "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" and was nominated for "Record of the Year".
Watch the 2021 Soul Train Awards on Sunday, November 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on BET and BET Her.