Alicia Keys’ first studio album was released in 2001. Photo: Courtesy of J Records.
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Why you haven’t heard it

When it comes to the best R&B albums of all time, Songs in A Minor definitely deserves a spot on that list.

Before she won 15 Grammys, Alicia Keys first set foot on the music scene with the release of her first studio album in 2001, Songs in A Minor. Keys collectively combines her classical piano style with soul, R&B, and hip-hop rhythms to create a masterpiece of eclectic and diverse tracks.

Despite her success, this album didn’t get enough time for promotion simply due to the fact that Keys’ second studio effort, The Diary of Alicia Keys, followed in quick succession only two years later.

Why it might be tough to get through

Though Alicia Keys scored major success during the release of this album, there are multiple tracks on display that listeners might find a little too similar to one another in terms of the composition and style.

The most popular tune from the album, “Fallin’” is noticeably similar to the last track “Lovin’ U,” especially in the way that they both echo the soul style of Aretha Franklin, with “Lovin’ U” sampling Franklin’s “(You make me feel like) A Natural Woman”.

Why you should listen to it anyway

Most of the album was written and composed by Keys herself, which is quite impressive for the then 20-year-old. This album features a dynamic range of sounds, from the 1970s jazz-funk guitar heard throughout the track “Rock Wit U” to the Latin-infused love tune titled “Mr. Man,” which features jazz singer Jimmy Cozier. Alicia also collaborated with several other notable artists such as R&B singer Brian McKnight as well as rapper and producer Jermaine Dupri.

Fun Facts

  • The only track on the album that is actually sung in the key of A minor is the song “Jane Doe,” which Keys wrote in collaboration with singer-songwriter Kandi Burruss.  
  • In the opening interlude, “Piano & I,” Keys samples the classical arpeggio styles of Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven.
  • The third track on the album titled “How Come You Don’t Call Me” was originally written and composed by the legendary Prince in 1982. The late musician gave Keys permission to cover the song, which went on to become one of the most memorable tracks on the album.

Best lines and songs

“Cause when it rains it pours, isn’t life worth more?/ I don’t even know what I’m hustling for.” (from “The Life.”)

“Just when I think/ I’ve taken more than would a fool/ I start fallin’ back in love with you.” (from “Fallin’.”)


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