Top 10 Alicia Keys Songs
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a decade since Alicia Keys songs first started making their rounds on the radio.
The songstress first burst on the scene in 2001 at the tender age of 20, but her age belied her talent and skill. She could tickle the ivories like a seasoned veteran, and her voice was that of an old soul. Keys channeled what felt like lifetimes of emotion into her mix of R&B, neo soul, blues, funk and jazz, thus creating her very own unique blend.
Keys is over 10 years deep into her career, with five studio albums to her name, and yet we feel like she’s only scratched the surface of what she can and will do. From her signature piano ballads (‘Fallin’,’ ‘No One’) to her empowering anthems (‘Girl on Fire’), Keys isn’t afraid to eschew a poker face in favor of showing her hand and her heart. Her music and lyrics come from a very real place and it’s why her songs have connected with fans of all ages and genres. She’s timeless.
We’ve scanned and scoured her catalog to come up with the Top 10 Alicia Keys songs. Check out our picks below, and leave a comment sharing your personal favorite.
This song is a sexy, sultry and smoldering duet between two voices that define their genres. Few can croon in a falsetto like Usher Raymond, and Keys’ has demonstrated the ability to experiment within her belter’s range more often than not. The song appears on Usher’s 2004 release ‘Confessions,’ but he and Keys share equal vocal billing on the track. If we didn’t know better, we’d think they were a couple. They’re that believable in the space of this song.
The Alicia Keys song ‘Diary’ is a bit of an adult contemporary track, but you can hear her heart in her breathy delivery. Here, Keys’ voice has these rich, milky textures that can send chills rocketing up the spine. It’s as though she is singing right to you. Fun fact? This tune, from her second album, 2003’s ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys,’ also featured one of her past phone numbers.
‘Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart’
While Alicia Keys has made her name on the back of her signature ballads and her voice, this percussive track, from 2009’s ‘The Element of Freedom,’ allowed her to experiment. An undulating beat is threaded throughout the track, which mixes R&B, pop and some synths, the latter of which you don’t hear often in Alicia Keys songs. She experimented with something new in the track’s construction and production and it definitely worked for her.
‘Un-thinkable (I’m Ready)’
Keys teamed up with rapper Drake, also a co-writer, to amazing results on this downtempo R&B track. In it, she’s vulnerable and isn’t hiding that fact, as her voice tip-toes across the piano melody. Keys is never afraid to express the contents of her heart in her songs, but there’s a degree of tenuousness on this ‘Element of Freedom’ track and it’s well-played.
‘You Don’t Know My Name’
This Alicia Keys song from the pianist’s sophomore LP boasts a decidedly ’70s sound, which makes sense since borrows samples from a 1974 song, ‘Let Me Prove My Love to You,’ by the Main Ingredient. “Baby, it’s gettin’ kind of crazy / ‘Cause you are takin’ over my mind / And it feels like ooh / But you don’t know my name,” a bluesy Keys sings. She reminded us of a young Mary J. Blige when this track landed.
‘If I Ain’t Got You’
Keys tickles the ivories and shows off her range in this buttery, sultry ballad from her second album, ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys.’ It’s indicative of the fact that there’s a very old soul residing in her body and living behind that voice, and the jazzy tempo suggests that Keys will be around for a while, since the songstress is not afraid to incorporate the old and the new into her music. It adds to her ageless appeal.
‘A Woman’s Worth’
This lazy, silky smooth and soulful number, which can be found on Keys’ debut, ‘Songs in A Minor,’ is built around the piano, something we would come to expect from the musician throughout her career. It’s also a “How To” manual for dudes. Grab some champagne, roses, chocolates and some bath oils for a romantic evening, but be sure this Alicia Keys song is percolating in the background.
‘Girl on Fire’
Her hit single from 2012’s album of the same name is Keys at her storytelling and soulful best. The ‘Girl on Fire’ she sings of could be herself, or it could be you or I. It’s an empowering anthem that invites lots of singing along when you’re vacuuming, driving down the freeway or need reminding of your self worth, with lyrics like, “You can try but you’ll never forget her name / She’s on top of the world / Hottest of the hottest girls say.” Burn, baby, burn.
This piano ballad with an unshakable, unforgettable melody is built around Keys’ epic voice. The way her emotions and her range escalate as she defiantly declares, “No one, no one / Can get in the way of what I’m feeling,” creates tension. But her determination is fierce, backed by the beautiful sound of her own voice. No one can cause her emotions to waver, so she sings with conviction. Who’s with her? Us, every time this song from 2007’s ‘As I Am’ comes on the radio, when we sing along at the top of our lungs.
Was there ever any doubt that this track from ‘Songs in A Minor’ would top our best Alicia Keys songs list? Keys has the kind of voice that makes heartbreak sound beautiful. Her smoky soul and bluesy vibe is apparent on her debut single. No artist likes to have their biggest hit be their first, but too bad. That’s what happened, since Keys came out firing on all pistons. She hasn’t topped this — yet — but she’s come pretty darn close. Still, that doesn’t mean she’s ‘Fallin” down the charts. She’s lucky to have an amazing song such as this setting the bar.