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.
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.
Unplugged is the first live album (third overall) by American recording artist Alicia Keys. It was recorded as part of the television program MTV Unplugged on July 4, 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York City, and released in the United States on October 11, 2005 by J Records, including songs from her multi-platinum albums Songs in A Minor and The Diary of Alicia Keys. The album debuted on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart at number one, with first-week sales of 196,000 copies in the U.S. and over 245,000 copies worldwide—the highest debut for an MTV Unplugged album since Nirvana's 1994 MTV Unplugged in New York and the first Unplugged by a female artist to debut at number one. The album has sold over one million copies in the United States and over 2.5 million copies worldwide. Additionally, it received four nominations for the 2006 Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Album.
The Element of Freedom is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Alicia Keys, released on December 11, 2009, by J Records. Recording sessions for the album took place during May to September 2009 at The Oven Studios in Long Island, New York. Production was handled by Keys, Jeff Bhasker, Swizz Beatz, Noah "40" Shebib, Toby Gad and Kerry "Krucial" Brothers. Departing from the classicist soul music of Keys' previous albums, The Element of Freedom has a mid-tempo, low-key sound and features mostly ballads.