Alicia Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor, made a significant impact upon its release in the summer of 2001, catapulting the young singer/songwriter to the front of the neo-soul pack. Critics and audiences were captivated by a 19-year-old singer whose taste and influences ran back further than her years, encompassing everything from Prince to smooth '70s soul, even a little Billie Holiday. In retrospect, it was the idea of Alicia Keys that was as attractive as the record, since soul fans were hungering for a singer/songwriter who seemed part of the tradition without being as spacy as Macy Gray or as hippie mystic as Erykah Badu while being more reliable than Lauryn Hill. Keys was all that, and she had style to spare – elegant, sexy style accentuated by how she never oversang, giving the music a richer feel. It was rich enough to compensate for some thinness in the writing – though it was a big hit, "Fallin'" doesn't have much body to it – which is a testament to Keys' skills as a musician.
The Diary of Alicia Keys is the second studio album by American recording artist Alicia Keys. It was released in the United States on December 2, 2003 by J Records. Recording sessions for the album took place during 2002 to 2003 at various recording studios, and production was handled primarily by Keys with contributions from Kerry Brothers, Jr., Timbaland, Dwayne Wiggins, Dre & Vidal, Easy Mo Bee and Kanye West.
First aired ten days prior to the release of Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys' VH1 Storytellers program featured six songs. While this set expands the set to 11 songs, it does not present the full performance. Heavy editing was involved; certain portions of Keys' dialogue re hacked up, crowd noise is unnaturally lowered and raised in volume, and there is little evident effort to make the songs flow. Keys' first words here, the lead-in to "No One," are "We were at the end of the album, and it was finished, and…" – so it provokes the feeling of walking into the venue as the gig is in progress. Furthermore, much of her intro to the following "Brand New Me" was cut. For all its choppiness, VH1 Storytellers is enjoyably off-the-cuff…
Alicia Keys was good when she represented lesbian gangsta chic. The moment she stepped out of that, partly due to the hype machine of Clive Davis, her music went downhill from that point on. With hit songs such as "Fallin'", "Girlfriend", "A Woman's Worth", "You Don't Know My Name" and "Karma", Keys was a powerhouse but getting the pop dollar moved her out of being worthy and talented on her own terms. Her first two CD's focused on what she was like before pop success ruined her and maybe she was aiming for this the entire time.