As I Am is the third studio album by American recording artist Alicia Keys. It was released in the United States on November 13, 2007 by J Records. Recording sessions for the album took place at various recording studios during 2005 to 2007. Production was handled primarily by Keys, Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, Jack Splash, and Linda Perry, with a guest contribution from musician John Mayer.
The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 742,000 copies in its first week, highest ever for a female R&B artist and eventually earned a triple platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. It became an international commercial success and produced four singles that achieved chart success, including "No One", which became the song most listened to of 2007 in America. Despite some criticism towards Keys' songwriting, As I Am received positive reviews from most music critics and earned Keys several accolades, including three Grammy Awards. It has sold over five million copies worldwide.
The album was re-released on November 10, 2008, in the UK and on November 14 (as an import release) and November 25 (as a mainstream release) in the US, titled As I Am: The Super Edition. The album consists of three additional tracks and a second disc of five performances at The Coronet in London. The edition's lead single, "Another Way to Die", was written as the theme song to the 2008 film Quantum of Solace.
Keys had been working on the album since late 2005, but focused on it to a greater extent in 2006. She first mentioned the album's name to E! News reporter Giuliana Rancic on June 26, 2007 at the BET Awards red carpet pre-show. During the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards she confirmed that her album was finished. Earlier Keys had said to MTV: "It's coming together incredibly. I am in love with this album. It's very fresh and new."
The album was heavily promoted, and special advertising was arranged in collaboration with MTV before and during the week of release. The entire album was streamed on MTV's website, beginning on November 6, 2007, a week before the album's North American release date. Additionally, Keys was MTV's Artist of the Week for the week beginning November 12, 2007. MTV commissioned Evan Silver to direct series of nine humorous ads of Keys being harassed by someone in a bunny costume. In the final spot, the bunny is revealed to be John Mayer.
A limited number of vinyl records were pressed on double red vinyl at Nashville's historic United Record Pressing. They contain the fourteen standard tracks divided into two vinyls with seven tracks each.
The album became Keys' fourth consecutive number-one album on the Billboard 200, selling 742,000 copies in its first week; this amount is the largest ever first-week sales for any female artist since Norah Jones' Feels like Home sold one million copies in its opening week in 2004. This made Keys' third consecutive multi-platinum studio album in the United States. The album spawned four singles; two of them became number-one hits on the BillboardHot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while the others entered the top three and the top fifteen respectively. As I Am was ranked the US's best-selling album overall and the best-selling R&B album of 2008 by Billboard, while its lead single, "No One", became the song most listened to in America that same year.As I Am has been certified triple platinum by the RIAA as of January 3, 2008. It is the fourth best-selling album of 2007 in the United States and the best-selling album of 2008. In 2010, Billboard named it the seventy-sixth most successful album of the decade. The album has sold over five million copies worldwide.
As I Am received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 66, based on 22 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".Jon Pareles of Blender felt that the album "advances" from her previous two albums "by showing an experimental side."Spin commented that Keys' songwriting has improvement from her previous work. In a rave review of the album, Gregory Stephen Tate of The Village Voice praised Keys for her vintage soul influence and called As I Am a "complete work".NME perceived the album as a departure from Keys' previous albums and described it as "streetwise, smoky set of real soul".Entertainment Weekly 's Neil Drumming described it as "Keys' most polished — if, at times, edgeless — album to date".Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani wrote that "Keys isn't quite a superwoman come to save R&B from itself, but the timeless quality of As I Am is right on time."USA Today gave the album three out of four stars and called it Keys' "most cohesive studio album". Nate Chinen of The New York Times stated "As I Am radiates not just confidence but also experience", and called it Keys' "strongest effort yet". According to The Star-Ledger the album is "another solid effort" but "not the masterpiece that Keys seems capable of producing, someday".
Keys' songwriting on the album received negative criticism from The Washington Post 's J. Freedom du Lac, who called As I Am "disappointing" and wrote that it "reveals her considerable limitations as a lyricist". Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian called Keys "crashingly dull... her vaunted self-belief seemingly leaves no room for vulnerability, humour, insight or any of the other qualities possessed by the soul giants to whose stature she aspires". Writing for Rolling Stone, critic Robert Christgau found the album's prevailing mood "reflectively soulful and the prevailing tempo mid". In his consumer guide, Christgau gave it a one-star honorable mention () and quipped, "Nice girl holds out," while citing "Teenage Love Affair" and "Wreckless Love" as highlights. Despite commending the album for its "more traditional soul" and pop-oriented sound, The Observer writer Stephanie Merritt perceived Keys' lyrics as a significant fault and wrote "for the most part, the lyrics are so reliant on stock phrases - 'feel your touch', 'hold me', 'shoulda known', etc - that you could read anything you like into them without them carrying any personal feeling at all".Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot felt that the "main problem is that Keys’ songwriting has yet to transcend her obvious influences". Marisa Brown of AllMusic also viewed its lyrical quality as a weakness, but stated, "even though As I Am is a flawed work — a little too poppy, a little too clichéd — it is also indicative of what Keys can and will do".