Alicia Keys, born Alicia Augello-Cook, in Manhattan, New York City, USA on January 25, 1981, is a popular R&B vocalist and pianist. She was born to an Afro father named Craig Cook and a Caucasian mother, Terri Augello. Known as a smart student, Alicia successfully graduated as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School, a public high school in Manhattan. Making use of her scholarship, Keys briefly attended Columbia University, but then dropped out to pursue career in music.
Keys has, in fact, shown that she possesses a great interest in music since her very childhood. During which she, at seven years old, had begun playing piano and learned classical music by classy composers like Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, all of whom are her favorites. When she was fourteen years old, Keys wrote her first song "Butterflyz" which was included on her debut album "Songs in A Minor", released on August 19, 2001. This first album was commercially a success, with one of its singles entitled "Fallin'" sitting at #1 in U.S. charts and #3 in U.K. charts. It also won five Grammy Awards in 2002.
In 2002, Keys released another single taken from her 1st album, named "A Woman's Worth," which gained relatively equal success to its predecessor. Writing her own songs and playing several instruments with technical prowess, Keys was perceived as an original voice singer who deserves two thumbs up at a time the musical marketplace was flooded with pop bands. This assumption makes Keys one of the most popular artists of the 21st century to have established a large fan-base of "fanatic" fans. Despite many critics aimed to her voice as artificially imitating 1970s soul singers, like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, with hip hop influences that were less original than similar blends from nu soul artists like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and D'Angelo, Keys was in fact, able to prove herself to be a successful solo singer.
In the late 2003, Keys released her second album, "Diary of Alicia Keys", which went straight up to the top of the Billboard R&B charts. "If I Ain't Got You" single taken from that album was topping charts at #1 in U.S. whereas "Diary" (feat. Tony! Toni! Tone!) sat at #2 in U.S. charts. This success has led Keys to win the award for Best R'n'B at the 2004 MTV Europe Music Awards. Keys reached further recognition with her Usher duet, "My Boo", which rode on top of 2004 U.S. charts in 2004.
Keys also wrote and produced "Impossible," one of the songs in Christina Aguilera's album, "Stripped." She was named one of People Magazine's Breakthrough Stars of 2001 and People Magazine 2002's 50 Most Beautiful People.
Keys was one of the performers to sing "America the Beautiful" at the Super Bowl XXXIX game, held on February 6, 2005, along with 150 students from Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. She was also mentioned as the singers to perform at the 47th Annual Grammy Award, in which she was handed 8 nominations, including Album of the Year and Best R&B Album for the "Diary of Alicia Keys". Creating a bridge from the successful albums, Alicia released an "MTV Unplugged" album that includes new arrangements of her hit "A Woman's Worth", covers of legendary hits such as The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" and new materials. One of the original scores, "Unbreakable" hit Billboard Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop Songs at #1 for 11 weeks. Through this very song, "Unplugged" was sold for more than 1 million copies in the U.S. alone. It was regarded the highest selling MTV's Unplugged series after Nirvana's 1994 Unplugged version.
As soon as she was done with the unplugged album, she began working on a full-length studio album in late 2006 and ventured out to acting world. She provided voice for an episode of animated TV series "The Backyardigans" and sang a song for it. The year was also sentimental for Keys who lost her grandmother. She escaped to Egypt for several weeks because she "needed to get as far away as possible." She would later name her first son after the country.
Keys was back on the studio for her third release. "No One" was released as the first single of her CD "As I Am" which was slated for November 2007 release. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200, selling 742,000 copies in its first week, becoming her largest first week sales of her career and her fourth consecutive number one album. The sales were further increased with the success of second single "Like You'll Never See Me Again". At the same time, Keys was praised for her acting chop in "Smokin' Aces". Although the film did only moderately in Box Office, Keys' performance was deemed "so natural". She also starred in "The Nanny Diaries" which was released in the same year.
In 2008, she won two American Music Awards and three awards from Grammys. She went on recording Bond theme song with Jack White, titled "Another Way to Die", which is the first in Bond history to be a duet. Keys went in front of the camera for "The Secret Life of Bees" that year, earning a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. Meanwhile, accolades for her fourth effort kept coming when her fourth single "Superwoman" won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at 2009 Grammy Awards.
Fame did not come with pleasure only. Keys was hit with criticism when she commented on the term "Gangsta rap". She believed Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. were "essentially assassinated, their beefs stoked by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing". She later claimed her words were misinterpreted by Blender magazine. Not long after that, Keys was slammed for agreeing to a concert in Indonesia, which was sponsored by a tobacco brand. The matter was solved later by the extraction of the company as its sponsor.
Romance came for Keys in 2009 when she started working closely with producer Swizz Beatz. They came out with the relationship in May that year. Keys was then featured on Jay-Z's commercially-successful single "Empire State of Mind". She won Grammy Awards for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song in 2010 after gaining five nominations. Keys did not stop there, she hit a note in the Latin music field by collaborating with Alejandro Sanz for "Looking for Paradise".
Her fourth studio album "The Element of Freedom" was released in December 2009 with "Doesn't Mean Anything" as the first single. It sold 417,000 copies in the first week of release, landing at number two on Billboard Hot 200 and thus ending her consecutive number 1 record. It was the fifth single from the album "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)" that actually performed the best chart-wise.
Keys got engaged to Beatz in 2010 after learning that she was pregnant with their first child. They later made the relationship official in a wedding ceremony held on the French island of Corsica on July 31, 2010. Their son, Egypt Daoud Ibarr Dean, was born in October in New York City. Keys was back in music as early as June 2011 when she went on a short tour to promote the re-release of "Songs in A Minor". She also busied herself with her first directing job, a short film called "Project 5" which also featured other directors.
Keys released a new single "Girl on Fire" in September 2012 as the first single of her fifth studio album of the same name. She released the album on November 27, 2012 through RCA Records after her old label was disbanded. The uptempo "Girl on Fire" was followed with ballad "Brand New Me".