Alicia Keys: ‘I felt I was from another planet’
On 27 February, 2002, Alicia Keys was miserable with the flu. She was also due to attend her first-ever Grammys.
That night, she was up for six awards, including song of the year for Fallin’, and was due to perform a medley of hits alongside Flamenco dancer Joaquin Cortes.
“I willed myself out of bed,” she recalls in her autobiography, More Myself. “I wasn’t about to miss my first Grammys, even if my face crashed right down onto the piano keys.”
A shot of vitamin B12 carried her through the ceremony, where Keys scooped five of those six awards, tying Lauryn Hill’s record for the most trophies for a female solo artist in a year.
The mixture of exhilaration, illness and drowsiness made it feel like she’d “ascended into outer space”.
“What new artist wins five awards after just one album?” The whole night “felt unbelievable to me,” she adds, “even otherworldly”.
Fast forward to 2020 and Keys was back at the Grammys – this time as host – as Billie Eilish replicated her five-prize success.
The teenager, who was born in the year Keys released her debut, seemed uncomfortable with all the acclaim. As the nominees for album of the year were read out, the camera caught her saying, “please don’t be me”. On stage, she confessed to feeling undeserving.
Watching from the sideline, Keys knew exactly what she was going through. It’s a surprise to learn that Keys ever felt inadequate or unworthy. Her music pulses with strength and messages of emancipation. Even U2’s Bono says the star gives off a “don’t eff with me” energy.
But, as she explains in her book, More Myself, songs like Superwoman and Girl On Fire weren’t written by someone who had the world figured out. Instead, “the lyrics were what I needed to hear”.