Alicia Augello Cook, better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, is more than a singer. She is a New York Times bestselling author and a fifteen-time Grammy Award winner, classically trained in the piano, and began composing at age twelve. The incomparable Alicia signed with Columbia Records at just fifteen years old as an R&B singer, and she hasn’t stopped dropping breathtakingly beautiful tracks since then. Here are the ten best Alicia Keys songs of all time.
The Underdog is often seen in a negative light. At best, an ‘underdog’ might pull off an incredible and unexpected win, but that’s not how Alicia Keys sees it. The song Underdog doesn’t need interpretation because she wrote exactly what she meant in the lyrics. This is a song about empowerment and seeing everyone as valid and worthy. She is speaking to the resistance of the human spirit, the majority of people who aren’t famous or wealthy, who struggle and work for everything they have. It’s no surprise that this 2020 song was so well received in a year when everyone was doing what they could to scramble to get by.
Every great singer eventually does a breakup song. Karma is Alicia’s song for the jaded and brokenhearted. With lines like ‘What goes around comes around,” Karma is a song about a lover who has been spurned only to see the one who left end up in their shoes. Relatable and underrated, Karma deserves more accolades.
8. Girl On Fire (With Nikki Minaj)
Girl On Fire was a superb empowering song about a young woman. However, the song inspired more than just Alicia Keys fans. The singer herself decided to take the music further. The novel Girl On Fire, co-written by Andrew Weiner and illustrated by Brittney Williams, is scheduled to come out next year, according to LowellSun. Unlike her earlier writing, which includes a poetry book and a memoir, this book is pure fantasy. The protagonist Lolo is telekinetic.
7. Like You’ll Never See Me Again
Alicia Keys is fond of creating beautiful but very straightforward songs. She says and sings what she means. Like You’ll Never See Me Again is about living every moment life gives you to the fullest. Though it’s a bit cliche, this is a song about living life like every day is your last because you never know when it will be.
In 2004, Diary was Nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With vocals category. Although it ultimately didn’t win, she took home four Grammys that year, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Album. The song, about trust in love, is mellow and relaxing to listen to, yet it brings the passion Alicia is so well known for. Keys could easily have swept up all eight of the Grammys she was nominated for that year despite a plethora of excellent music that came out.
5. If I Ain’t Got You
The piano intro on If I Ain’t Got You is outstanding. Alicia’s soulful voice riffing on all the seemingly unimportant things people live for, like fame and diamonds, quickly dismisses all those material needs in favor of love. The theme of living for love alone is common in music but rarely is it so uplifting as in this song. It’s no surprise Alicia took home the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance the year this song came out. Everyone who has ever been in love can relate to the feeling that this one perfect, beautiful thing is all that a person needs.
4. My Boo (With Usher)
My Boo is a song about puppy love Keys sings with hit singer Usher Raymond. For many people, the first love, or at least one of the early ones, holds a special place in their hearts. Even when people grow up and grow apart, they still hold on to that particular person who made their early romantic life into what it was. Sharing a special connection doesn’t have to be about a current situation or an affair. My Boo is a nostalgia song.
3. Empire State of Mind (With Jay-Z)
On the surface, Empire State of Mind seems to be about New York City, and it is when she performs with rapper Jay-Z. However, the song is more of a metaphor for New York’s hope and challenge of the quintessential American city. The challenge of striking out on your own is redoubled when you face additional challenges. Whether you face challenges as a person or because of your environment, growing and thriving is never easy, but it’s achievable. The sense of beauty and accomplishment in doing something worthwhile is what this song conveys.
2. No One
Love is an overarching theme in many of Alicia Keys’ songs. No One is more controversial than most. The song talks about how the singer doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her love. Literally, no one is going to get in the way of her love. As one fan commenter points out on Lyrics Mode, the song could also be about the turmoil she felt over her husband of the last decade because he was married to someone else when they met.
Fallin was Alicias’ first big hit. The deep, soul-saturated bluesy tone of this song made it an instant classic. The year Fallin’ came out, she won four Grammys, and three of them were for this song. Fallin’ was also nominated for the album of the year, but it lost even as she won Best R&B Album of the Year with Songs in A Minor. Fallin’ is the essential Alicia Keys power ballad that made her fame and truly deserves to top any list of R&B or Alicia Keys’ work. Nothing else even comes close.
Making an Alicia Keys playlist is difficult because she is so prolific. You could easily make separate lists just based on mood. When you need a pick-me-up, start with a song like Underdog, or create an entire playlist about love starting with Girl On Fire. Once you finish this top ten hit list, check out all seven of her studio albums and the two live albums for more incredible songs for every occasion.