#90: Alicia Keys 'You Don't Know My Name'


Alicia Keys first caught my attention when I saw her performance on a BET Christmas special where she performed a reworked version of "Little Drummer Boy." It was obvious to anyone who saw that performance that this girl barely out of adolescence was going to make a huge splash on the music scene. Once she was signed to Clive Davis' J Records, Alicia began racking up number one hits, booking stadium-level concert halls, and grabbed up more Grammys than you could shake a stick at. Once her songs from Songs In A Minor started getting featured on "Lite FM" stations, I knew it was a wrap. I have made mention of my disappointment with Alicia in the past as have many of you, partly because I always expect so much more from her. It's almost as if you can see the music welling up in her body before your eyes, only to be given a milquetoast offering like her latest album, As I Am. And to those who disagree I would say that I see the point of maintaining a more "mainstream" (read: "not willing to take risks") sound in order to hit your fans over the head with something bold and substantial later, but after four albums, I want to be amazed by your musical offerings, not your barber shop-originating "conspiracy theories." 

Despite all of this, it was I who was shocked and finally amazed at Alicia's sound when "You Don't Know My Name" was released in 2003 from her third studio work, The Diary of Alicia Keys. Not only was this song beautifully crafted as though the talent bottled up in Alicia for all these long years had finally been able to shine through, but she channeled the heart of a 70's-era songwriter (Roberta Flack and Carole King come to mind) with such authenticity that I was proud of Alicia for a moment. Add to this equation under-the-radar cutie Mos Def looking dapper as ever and loving up Alicia in dimly-lit rooms and them sharing stolen moments in the shadows, and you have a damn-near perfect video. It's too bad this perfection didn't last, but who knows what she'll have in store for the people. Perhaps that same assertiveness with which she described the government's role in the creation of gangsta rap can be used to take more risks on her next LP. Until then we'll always know her name. 

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