Songs in A Minor

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Songs in A Minor
Studio album by Alicia Keys
Released June 5, 2001
Recorded 1998–2001
Backroom Studios
(Glendale, California)
Battery Studios, KrucialKeys Studios, The Hit Factory, Unique Studios
(New York City)
Doppler Studios, Southside Studios
(Atlanta, Georgia)
Genre Neo soul
Length 63:04
Label J
Producer Alicia Keys (also exec.), Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, Jermaine Dupri, Brian McKnight, Kandi Burruss, Jimmy Cozier, Arden Altino, Miri Ben-Ari
Alicia Keys chronology
Songs in A Minor
(2001)
The Diary of Alicia Keys
(2003)
Singles from Songs in A Minor
  1. "Fallin'"
    Released: April 6, 2001
  2. "A Woman's Worth"
    Released: February 12, 2002
  3. "How Come You Don't Call Me"
    Released: June 4, 2002
  4. "Girlfriend"
    Released: December 24, 2002

Songs in A Minor is the debut studio album by American recording artist Alicia Keys. It was released in the United States on June 5, 2001 by J Records. After graduating from high school, Keys signed with Columbia Records to begin her music career. She recorded an album in 1998 under the label, which they rejected. Her contract subsequently ended with Columbia after a dispute with the label, and Keys later signed with Clive Davis. An accomplished, classically trained pianist, Keys wrote, arranged and produced a majority of the album, including "Jane Doe", which was the only song in the key of A minor.

Songs in A Minor is a neo soul album with a diverse musical style that incorporates hip hop, soul, jazz and elements of gospel music. Its songs feature classical piano references and arpeggios, and are backed by haunting melodies, funk, classic soul structures, values to hyper-modern production technique and lyrics about the complexities and stages of romantic relationships. All of the album content was co-written by Keys except for two; one being a cover of "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" (1992) by Prince.

Upon its release, the album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who noted her ability to catch an old-school jazz sound and mix it with R&B and soul melodies. Keys was compared by critics to such artists as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, Prince, and Lauryn Hill. The album earned Keys several awards and accolades, including five Grammy Awards at the 44th Grammy Awards. Songs in A Minor debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 236,000 copies in its first week. It has sold over 6.2 million copies in the United States and twelve million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone magazine named Songs in A Minor the second best album of 2001, while ranking it number 95 on its list of the best albums of the 2000s decade. In 2013 Entertainment Weekly ranked the album at the 57th position among the greatest albums of all time.

Background and recording[edit]

After graduating from the Professional Performing Arts School, Keys was accepted to Columbia University. She dropped out after four weeks to pursue her music career.[1] She signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label. Keys co-wrote and recorded a song titled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 film, Men in Black. She also contributed to the So So Def Christmas recordings.[2] Keys began writing, producing and recording the album in 1998.[3] She completed it that same year, but it was rejected by Columbia Records. Keys explained that the producers she worked with would tell her to "just get in the booth and sing", which frustrated her.[4] Her record contract with Columbia ended after a dispute with the label. Keys then performed for Clive Davis, who sensed a "special, unique" artist; he bought Keys' contract from Columbia and signed her to Arista Records, which later disbanded.[2][5][6]

Following Davis to his newly formed J Records label, Keys rented an apartment and struggled to create an album. She began writing the song "Troubles" and came to a realization: "That's when the album started comin' together. Finally, I knew how to structure my feelings into something that made sense, something that can translate to people. That was a changing point. My confidence was up, way up."[7] Keys learned how to produce by asking questions to the producers and engineers; she wrote, arranged and produced a majority of the album.[4][8] She recorded the songs "Rock wit U" and "Rear View Mirror", which were featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), respectively.[9][10] One of the final songs Keys recorded was "Fallin'".[7] A total of 32 songs were recorded for the album.[11] Originally titled Soul Stories in A Minor, the title of the album was changed over concerns that it would limit exposure only to black radio stations.[4]

Composition[edit]

"Fallin'" is a gospel-influenced piano ballad.[7] Often considered her signature song, it describes the "ins and outs" of being in a relationship.[12]

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Songs in A Minor is a neo soul album with classical piano references and arpeggios.[13] Keys incorporates classical piano with R&B, soul and jazz into the album's music.[2][4][14] With influences of classical piano, classic soul and East Coast hip hop,[2] Keys described the album as a "fusion of my classical training, meshed with what I grew up listening to [...] things I've been exposed to and drawn from and my life experiences".[12] Jane Stevenson of Jam! described the music as "old-school urban sounds and attitude set against a backdrop of classical piano and sweet, warm vocals".[15] USA Today '​s Steve Jones wrote that Keys "taps into the blues, soul, jazz and even classical music to propel haunting melodies and hard-driving funk".[16] John Mulvey of Yahoo! Music called the album "a gorgeous and ambitious melding of classic soul structures and values to hyper-modern production technique".[17]

The album's opening track, "Piano & I", begins with a rendition of Ludwig van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, combined with a hip hop beat.[18] The introduction is followed by "Girlfriend", which was produced by Jermaine Dupri.[2] Commended for its "crisp production",[19] the song samples Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Brooklyn Zoo".[2] Keys' cover of Prince's 1982 ballad "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" (retitled "How Come You Don't Call Me") was inspired by a long-term relationship with a partner.[2][20] The music critic for PopMatters felt that the song was credible, but fell short from the original and Stephanie Mills's 1980s cover.[2] "Fallin'", the gospel-driven lead single and often considered Keys's signature song,[21][22] contains a sample of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World".[2] The song earned Keys comparisons to Aretha Franklin.[23]

"A Woman's Worth", the second single released from the album, is a "gospel-tinged"[24] song that recommends to men to show respect to their female partner.[25] "Jane Doe" is a funk-driven song, with backing vocals provided by Kandi Burruss.[2][25] "The Life", which elicits Curtis Mayfield's "Gimmie Your Love", describes Keys's "philosophy of life and struggle".[2] The song was compared to the work of the English band Sade.[24] "Mr. Man" contains elements Latin American music[24] and was described as a "sexy and soulful duet", in which Jimmy Cozier "adds his spice".[25] The album ends with the hidden track "Lovin' U", which Christian Ward of NME compared to works of the musical group The Supremes.[24]

Release and promotion[edit]

Keys performing in Frankfurt, Germany, 2002

In advance of Songs in A Minor, "Girlfriend" was released to urban radio in early 2001 to "introduce" Keys.[2] In order to promote her, music executive Clive Davis booked Keys to The Tonight Show. Afterward, he sent the music video of the first single, "Fallin'", to MTV; "half the women had tears down their face" when the video finished playing.[11] "Fallin'" peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, where the song remained atop the charts for six and four weeks, respectively.[26][27] It became the most played song in the United States at the time and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.[28][29] The album's second single, "A Woman's Worth", peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[30] The third single, "How Come You Don't Call Me" peaked at number 59 on the same chart,[31] while the fourth single, "Girlfriend", peaked at number 82 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[32]

Davis wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey, asking her to allow Keys, along with Jill Scott and India.Arie, to perform on her show.[11] The group of singers performed on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where Keys "wowed" the audience.[33] This led to the album's pre-orders to double that night.[4] From August to October 2001, Keys toured alongside recording artist Maxwell in promotion of the album.[34] Soon after, she embarked on her Songs in A Minor Tour.[26]

On June 28, 2011, Songs in A Minor was re-released as deluxe and collector's editions in commemoration of its 10th anniversary.[35] Both editions will feature previously unreleased material and a documentary chronicling the making of the original album. On June 26, 2011, at the BET Awards Keys performed a medley of songs which included "Typewriter", "A Woman's Worth" with Bruno Mars and "Maybach Music" with Rick Ross and "Fallin'". On June 28, 2011, Keys performed "Fallin'", "Butterflyz" and "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" on Good Morning America.[36] BET aired "The Story So Far... Alicia Keys" special highlighting Alicia's 10 year career through her BET moments on June 28, 2011. On June 30, Keys performed Songs in A Minor in its entirety and telling stories of its recording in a show titled "Piano & I: A One Night Only Event With Alicia Keys" at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.[35] In an interview for MTV, Keys called its 10th anniversary "incredibly surreal for me" and said of the album in retrospect, "This album is possibly the most precious to me as your first album only happens once, and so Songs in A Minor will always hold a special place in my life that's filled with amazing memories. I'm so proud the songs are still being enjoyed, and I'm crazy excited to share songs never heard before."[35][37]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[38]
Robert Christgau A−[39]
Entertainment Weekly B[21]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[40]
The New Zealand Herald 3/5 stars[23]
NME 9/10[41]
Q 4/5 stars[42]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[43]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[19]
Uncut 4/5 stars[44]

Songs in A Minor received generally favorable reviews from contemporary music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, it received an average score of 78, based on 10 reviews.[45] Keys' sound was compared to other soul musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, Laura Nyro, Jill Scott, Prince and Lauryn Hill.[38][43][46] Sam Faulkner of NME described the balance between contemporary music and retrospective as "an act of pure genius".[41] Q magazine hailed it as "a prime candidate to head up the nu-soul revolution ... with a voice that challenges Mary J. Blige's".[42] Steve Jones of USA Today said that "Keys already has a musical, artistic and thematic maturity that many more experienced artists never achieve".[16] The Washington Post '​s Richard Harrington wrote favorably of Keys' musical influences on the album and expressed that she has "vocal maturity and writing instincts beyond her years".[46] PopMatters critic Mark Anthony Neal praised Keys' performance on the album and called it "a distinct and oft-times brilliant debut from an artist who clearly has a fine sense of her creative talents".[2] Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, said that the "grace and grit" and of the first half warrant the "auspicious debut" label and that, after some "bores that threaten to sink the project midway through," Keys sustains the album with the songs at the end.[39]

Keys' vocal performance was lauded;[15][38][41] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine declared that Keys' displayed a "powerful range, proving she can belt along with the best of them".[19] Uncut called the album "frequently stunning" and said that Keys sings like "a young Aretha Franklin".[44] However, some found her lyrics to be sub-par to her singing and musical ability.[38][43] The New Zealand Herald '​s Russell Baillie stated that Keys "might indicate abundant talent aligned to neatly reverential vintage soul style", but expressed that the songs "don't add up to anything particularly memorable".[23] Entertainment Weekly '​s Beth Johnson called the second half of the album slacked with "sad sack teen themes", but called it a promising album.[21] Rolling Stone '​s Barry Walters perceived her singing as more mature than her songwriting, but commended Keys for her "commanding presence" on the album.[43] Los Angeles Times writer Robert Hilburn said that it "makes a convincing case that's she's going far—in both a commercial and creative sense".[40] In a retrospective review, Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine perceived the album's music as "rich enough to compensate for some thinness in the writing" and called it "a startling assured, successful debut that deserved its immediate acclaim and is already aging nicely".[38] Barry Walters wrote in a later article for Rolling Stone, "the album has aged well – excepting a drum-machine beat or two, it feels timeless."[47]

Commercial performance[edit]

Songs in A Minor debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 236,000 copies in its first week.[48] Through word of mouth and promotion, the album sold 450,000 copies in its second week and remained atop the chart for three non-consecutive weeks.[7][49] The album became one of the bestselling albums of 2001.[50] The song was certified six times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America,[51][52] and it has sold 6,348,000 copies in the US as of June 2014.[53] Songs in A Minor sold over 12 million copies worldwide.[54] Billboard magazine ranked the album thirty-second in the decade-end recap of the most successful albums of the 2000s, while placing it twelfth in the R&B field.[55][56] The RIAA lists it as one of the Best Selling Albums of All Time.[57]

Accolades[edit]

Songs in A Minor led Keys to win five awards at the 2002 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for "Fallin'", Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album; "Fallin'" was also nominated for Record of the Year. Keys became the second female solo artist to win five Grammy Awards in a single night, following Lauryn Hill at the 1999 Grammy Awards.[58] The album also won a NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Album".[59] Keys was also named Best New Artist at the 2002 World Music Awards.[60] "Fallin'" was ranked at number 37 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 Years in 2003[61] and was ranked the 413th greatest song of all time by Blender magazine.[62] The album was ranked number two on the Rolling Stone magazine's Top 10 of 2001, number 18 on The Village Voice's 2001 Pazz & Jop list, number 27 on Mojo magazine's Best 40 Albums of 2001 and was inducted to Q magazine's 100 Greatest Albums Ever.[63][64] Q also listed the album as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.[65] In 2009, Rolling Stone named it the 95th greatest album of the past decade, while "Fallin'" ranked at number 62 on the magazine's "100 Best Songs of the Decade" list.[66][67] In 2013 Entertainment Weekly ranked Songs in A Minor the 57th greatest album of all time, considering it as one of the biggest albums ever for a female artist.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Piano & I"   Alicia Keys 1:52
2. "Girlfriend"   Keys, Jermaine Dupri, Joshua Thompson 3:34
3. "How Come You Don't Call Me"   Prince 3:57
4. "Fallin'"   Keys 3:29
5. "Troubles"   Keys, Kerry Brothers, Jr. 4:28
6. "Rock wit U"   Keys, Taneisha Smith, Brothers 5:36
7. "A Woman's Worth"   Keys, Erika Rose 5:02
8. "Jane Doe"   Keys, Kandi Burruss 3:48
9. "Goodbye"   Keys 4:20
10. "The Life"   Keys, Smith, Brothers 5:25
11. "Mr. Man" (featuring Jimmy Cozier) Keys, Jimmy Cozier 4:09
12. "Never Felt This Way (Interlude)"   Brian McKnight 2:01
13. "Butterflyz"   Keys 4:08
14. "Why Do I Feel So Sad"   Keys, Warryn Campbell 4:25
15. "Caged Bird"   Keys 3:02
16. "Lovin U" (hidden track) Keys 3:49

Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor[edit]

Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor
Remix album / live album by Alicia Keys
Released October 22, 2002
Length 49:49
Label J

An album of remixes and live songs, Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor (issued in some countries as Songs in A Minor: Remixed & Unplugged), was released on October 22, 2002 by J Records. The album's live portion was edited from a performance recorded on August 10, 2002 at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Girlfriend (KrucialKeys Sista Girl Mix)"   Keys, Dupri, Thompson 3:27
2. "Gangsta Lovin'" (Eve featuring Alicia Keys) Alisa Yarbrough, Jonah Ellis, Lonnie Simmons 3:59
3. "Fallin' (Remix)" (featuring Busta Rhymes and Rampage) Keys 3:56
4. "A Woman's Worth (Remix)"   Keys, Rose 3:20
5. "Butterflyz (Roger's Release Mix)"   Keys 3:54
6. "Troubles (J-Jay & Chris Lum Bootleg Mix)"   Keys, Brothers 4:24
7. "How Come You Don't Call Me (Neptunes Remix)"   Prince 4:23
8. "Fallin'" (Ali Version) Keys 4:30
9. "Moonlight Sonata/L'Interludio, Ambivalente/Ain't Misbehavin'" (Live) Beethoven, Ray Chew, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf, Thomas Waller 2:22
10. "Goodbye" (Live) Keys 2:49
11. "Never Felt This Way" (Live) McKnight, Brandon Barnes 1:45
12. "Butterflyz" (Live) Keys 0:52
13. "Caged Bird" (Live) Keys 2:03
14. "I Got a Little Something for You" (Live) Keys 1:45
15. "Someday We'll All Be Free" (Live) Donny Hathaway, Edward Howard 6:24

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart succession[edit]

Preceded by
Devil's Night by D12
Devil's Night by D12
U.S. Billboard 200 number-one album
July 14, 2001 (first run)
July 28, 2001 – August 4, 2001 (second run)
Succeeded by
Devil's Night by D12
Celebrity by 'N Sync
Preceded by
Devil's Night by D12
U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums number-one album
July 14, 2001 – August 18, 2001
Succeeded by
Eternal by The Isley Brothers
Preceded by
Alle Kleuren by K3
Dutch Albums Chart number-one album
September 15, 2001 – September 22, 2001
Succeeded by
V by Live

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification
Australia[111] 2× Platinum
Austria[112] Gold
Belgium[113] Gold
Canada[114] 5× Platinum
Denmark[115] Platinum
Europe[116] 3× Platinum
France[117] Platinum
Germany[118] Platinum
Italy[119] Platinum
Japan[120] Gold
Netherlands[121] 2× Platinum
New Zealand[122] Platinum
Norway[123] Gold
Poland[124] Gold
Sweden[125] Platinum
Switzerland[126] 2× Platinum
United Kingdom[127] 3× Platinum
United States[52] 6× Platinum

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label
United States June 5, 2001 J Records
Canada June 26, 2001 Sony Music
United Kingdom July 23, 2001 J Records
Germany September 3, 2001
Australia
Japan February 27, 2002 BMG
France October 29, 2002 J Records
10th Anniversary Edition
Worldwide June 28, 2011 J Records

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]