“It’s definitely been a 2020 nobody could have imagined,” Keys tells Yahoo Entertainment, “and the music itself has been ready for quite some time, and now that that it’s here, I couldn’t be more excited.”
Further releases included the beautiful yet haunting track “Perfect Way to Die,” written in response to systemic racism and police brutality, and “So Done,” her slow, mellow duet with Grammy winner Khalid.
Alicia and Khalid on the set of the “So Done” music video. (Photo: RCA Records)
“I’ve been fascinated to see that my music that I wrote, you know, however many months ago, or even a year ago or whatever it might be, has been specifically meant for these moments now,” she says. “Even with my single ‘Underdog,’ I always knew that that song was something that … would resonate with (people), but who would know how powerfully people … going through COVID and having to experience this uncertainty (would respond).”
The track “Perfect Way to Die” was written after the deaths of Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, but it’s unfortunate relevance has continued as a result of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — the latter of whom Keys helped create an awareness campaign for. “The thing that hurts the most about that song, ‘Perfect Way to Die,’ written by Sebastian Cole and myself, is I don’t see it becoming irrelevant, and that’s so horrible, so sad.”
And of course there’s Keys’s husband, hip-hop producer extraordinaire Swizz Beatz, who helps out on the track “Good Job,” a tribute to frontline workers.
“In a way he’s not in my everyday creative space enough to be jaded by it. Since he’s outside of it, when he comes into it, he can think from a really fresh perspective,” she says. “So we found a really cool way to just flow. And then there’s also times when we’re working and I’m like, you know, I need a little space and he’s like, OK. So it’s just whatever works, and that’s what I think best friends can do.”
Keys says, “I might be really comfortable in one part of my skin, but then these other parts, actually the vulnerable part, that’s a very new sensation for me.” (Photo: Courtesy Milan Zirnic, RCA Records)
“I might be really comfortable in one part of my skin, but then these other parts, actually the vulnerable part, that’s a very new sensation for me. That’s a very new place. I’m feeling comfortable being uncomfortable, you know, and not trying to fix it or cover it up,” says Keys. “We’re putting (our lives) in these boxes that I think we actually internalize and don’t get a chance to break out of in so many ways. … This music is a representation of breaking out of those boxes and … those confined spaces and really exploring all of ourselves.”
Her 2020 World Tour has been rescheduled for 2021. Keys is ready to share the new music in person with the world, but she is being mindful of our current situation.