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How Alicia Keys' Incredible Career Led Her to The Voice, Broadway, and Beyond
The former Voice Coach takes the title of Renaissance Woman to a new level.
She's a classically trained pianist, a singer, an actress, and a business mogul. Seriously — is there anything Alicia Keys can't do?
Keys began composing songs as a teenager, and was signed to a label at 15 before embarking on an incredibly accomplished music career. The Grammy-winning singer and musician has become known for her soulful melodies and power ballads, delivering pitch-perfect vocals at every turn. And, since becoming one of the red chair legends of The Voice, Keys watched her Team Alicia Artists soar after garnering her coveted Coach intel.
Read on to learn more about Keys' incredible career to see how far the former Voice Coach has come.
What is Alicia Keys' given name?
Born Alicia Augello Cook in January 1981, Keys grew up in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, New York.
From a young age, Keys demonstrated tremendous skill in singing, songwriting, and performing, eventually adopting the stage name "Keys" as a reference to her preternatural talent on the piano.
What was Alicia Keys' first album?
After breaking a contract with Columbia and hopping aboard Arista Records, Keys released her debut studio album in 2001, Songs in A Minor.
The neo-soul record delivered listeners with the megahit "Fallin'" and led Keys to score a whopping five Grammy awards after the release: Best R&B Album, Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Song of the Year.
The Diary of Alicia Keys
After earning explosive success from her debut release, Keys' sophomore release in 2003, Diary of Alicia Keys, was another critical grand slam. Generating the soulful classics "You Don't Know My Name," and "If I Ain't Got You," Keys continued to expand her fame and name.
The Diary of Alicia Keys was well-received by the 2004 Grammy Awards, leading Keys to collect three additional Grammys: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("If I Ain't Got You"), Best R&B Song ("You Don't Know My Name").
In honor of the album's 20th anniversary in 2023, Keys released an immersive live album of Diary of Alicia Keys, which — you guessed it — scored a Grammy nomination for Best Immersive Audio Album.
Alicia Keys' Collaboration with Usher: "My Boo"
Keys teamed up with now-fellow Voice alum Usher in 2004 for his romantic Confessions duet "My Boo." The neo-soul track is a heartwarming love letter to that special someone who you'll always care for, perfectly catered toward Keys and Usher's powerful vocals.
Keys helped write the track with the "Yeah!" singer, scoring her another 2004 Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals.
Alicia Keys' Album As I Am
Keys kept the soulful hits rolling with her 2007 studio album, As I Am. The album delivered fans the jazzy singles "No One," "Like You'll Never See Me Again," "Teenage Love Affair," and Keys' power ballad, "Superwoman."
True to form, Keys collected several 2008 Grammys after the record's applauded release, taking home trophies for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for "No One." In 2009, Keys continued to reap rewards after her rousing set of "Superwoman" won the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Alicia Keys' Album The Element of Freedom
Keys' fourth studio album kept the silky vocals and heartwarming hits coming with the 2009 release of The Element of Freedom. The album boasts the mesmerizing singles "Doesn't Mean Anything," "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart," and "Put It in a Love Song," featuring Beyoncé.
The album also featured a remix of Keys and Jay Z's sonic love letter to the Big Apple, "Empire State of Mind." Her expanded, piano-backed reimagining of her part of the collab, titled "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down," peaked at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The original recording, featured on Jay Z's The Blueprint 3 album, added to Keys' impressive roster of career Grammys, with "Empire State of Mind" winning for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.)
Alicia Keys' Album Girl on Fire
Keys is a maestro when penning a power ballad, and with the release of her 2012 album, Girl on Fire, she added yet another mythic hit to the vault with the eponymous track. Released as the energizing lead single, "Girl on Fire" peaked at No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“We wrote the hook, you heard that big beat," Keys told USA TODAY in 2022, a decade after the megahit's release. "And I was in another room and I heard it banging against the wall. I called my husband and I said, ‘Babe, I think something special is happening right now.’”
Keys was correct in her cosmic foresight; Girl on Fire won Best R&B Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
Alicia Keys' Album Here
Keys released her sixth studio album, Here, in 2016, and it debuted at number 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The lead single "In Common" was an applauded success, with Keys performing the jazzy track on Saturday Night Live that year. The album featured an exciting lineup of producer collaborations, including her team-up with now-fellow Voice alum Pharrell Williams on the track "Work On It."
"I knew the topics that I wanted to address and I knew who I wanted to assemble to help me create this very powerful sonic and lyrical journey," Keys said (via Citizens of Humanity) upon the album's release. "So everything I did was with so much intention that when the music began it made sense that it just came so fast. We did probably 30 songs in like 10 days."
Alicia Keys' Album Alicia
In 2020, Keys released her studio album, Alicia. The album features a thrilling lineup of collaborations, including Khalid, Jill Scott, Miguel, and Brandi Carlisle.
The record is an introspective look at life and love, delivering haunting melodies that reach back to her Songs in A Minor roots.
Alicia Keys' Album Keys
The following year, Keys released her eighth studio album, Keys, producing the cherished R&B singles "Lala" and "Old Memories" — the latter of which she performed on The Voice during the Season 21 finale as a guest performer. The album was produced as a double-disc record with two versions: the first side, titled "Originals," showcases Keys' classic sound; and the second side, "Unlocked," is the same track list transformed by award-winning rap producer Mike WiLL Made-It and the occasional collaborator (like Swae Lee, Lil Wayne, and Khalid).
“There’s two sides to every story, and there’s two sides to every song on Keys,” Keys told fans in a promo shared on X (formerly Twitter). “So, you get to vibe with two sides of me.”
Alicia Keys' Holiday Album Santa Baby
Keys' most recent studio album to date was her holiday debut in 2022, Santa Baby. Keys' emotional lyricism and powerful vocals are a power combo in getting listeners in the holiday spirit.
Keys' holiday album consists of 11 cheer-inducing tracks. There are 7 holiday classics reimagined by the R&B queen herself and four original singles: "December Back 2 June", "You Don't Have to Be Alone", "Old Memories on Christmas", and her cherished Girl on Fire track "Not Even the King."
Alicia Keys' TV and Movie Roles: From The Cosby Show to Secret Life of Bees
Throughout her sprawling music career, Keys has also taken her talents to the big screens for several must-watch projects. But she actually made her acting debut years before recording music after guest starring as Maria in a 1985 episode of The Cosby Show.
In 2006, she made her film debut in the action comedy Smokin' Aces as Georgia Sykes, a contract killer.
The same year, Keys guest starred on The Backyardians as the voice of Mommy Martian in Season 2's "Mission to Mars." Other notable television projects featuring Keys include American Dreams (2003), The Proud Family (2003), and Empire (2015), along with dozens of appearances in music-based reality television competitions.
In 2007, Keys starred in The Nanny Diaries alongside Scarlet Johansen and Chris Evans.
Then Keys delivered one of her most hailed performances yet in The Secret Life of Bees (2008). Boasting a star-studded cast of Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, and Dakatoah Fanning, Keys shined as June Boatwright.
Aside from her appearances in film, Keys became a part of the historic Bond franchise after teaming up with White Stripes frontman Jack White to perform "Another Way to Die" as the theme song to Quantum of Solace.
Alicia Keys' Books and Poetry
Keys has showcased her incredible songwriting talents for years, so it's no surprise that she is also an author and poet.
Keys' first book, Tears for Water: Songbook of Poems and Lyrics, was released in 2004 and is a deep-dive into the soul queen's intimate thoughts and musings.
In 2007, she penned How Can I Keep from Singing?: Transforming the Lives of African Children and Families Affected by AIDS, mirroring many of the arguments she published in her 2008 and 2015 articles for CNN. The cause is close to Keys' heart as, in 2003, she co-founded the non-profit organization Keep a Child Alive, an organization that provides "healthcare, housing, and other support services to HIV/AIDS-affected communities in Africa and India."
Keys created Blue Moon: From the Journals of MaMa Mae and LeeLee, an interactive storytelling app about magic and discovery, inspired by Keys' relationship with her grandmother.
She released her memoir, More Myself: A Journey, in 2020 and, inspired by her 2012 album, Keys teamed up with Andrew Weiner in 2022 to write a young adult graphic novel, Girl on Fire, a heartwarming coming-of-age tale.
Alicia Keys' Broadway Musical Hell's Kitchen
One of Keys' most recent projects to date is her exciting Broadway breakout musical, Hell's Kitchen. Keys wrote the music and lyrics for the musical and joined forces with famed playwright Kristoffer Diaz to bring her magic to a Broadway stage.
The musical is loosely based on Keys' Manhattan upbringing, telling the story of a 17-year-old girl who is "desperate to get her piece of the New York dream." (The musical is set to open in April 2024, with tickets available for purchase on the show's website.)
Alicia Keys, The Voice Coach
As one of the most multi-talented powerhouses in the industry, Keys became an instant frontrunner as a Coach on The Voice after jumping into the red chair. Keys first made her way to The Voice as a Battle Advisor for Team Pharrell in Season 7 of the competition series.
She earned her red chair reign in Season 11, returning for Season 12 and Season 14, as well. She scored a victory for Team Alicia in Season 12 after R&B Artist Chris Blue took home the glory. After stepping away as a Coach, Keys made a delightful guest appearance during the Season 21 finale with a stirring set of her track, "Old Memories."
Alicia Keys' Awards and Walk of Fame Star
Keys has a mind-boggling expansive collection of awards and honors that she has received throughout her esteemed career in music and beyond. Keys is the proud recipient of 31 Grammy Award nominations, winning 15 Grammy Awards since her Songs in A Minor debut.
She's also received five American Music Awards, a 2008 Hollywood Film Award, a 2015 NAACP Award, and a 2018 BET Award.
In 2020, her incredible talents were immortalized with a star on the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame.