From The Vault: Alicia Keys – ‘Diary (Live On MTV Unplugged)’

Published: Sunday 30th Jan 2011 by Trent

At the time when R&B music was arguably at its peak in the mid-2000s there was no other female artist as consistent as Alicia Keys. This week’s From The Vault selection, ‘Diary’, demonstrates the key (no pun intended) elements of her success during that era – soulful vocals, true musicianship and superb songwriting.

This live version of the track was filmed during Keys’ set on ‘MTV Unplugged’ and released as part of her ‘Unplugged’ on album on October 7th 2005. The collection set records on the Billboard 200 by becoming the 1st ‘Unplugged’ album by a female artist to debut at #1.

Watching this performance is a bittersweet experience. It depicts a time in Keys’ career when she was still relatively new to the industry and her sound was unique as well as quite refreshing. Today, however, her music is far less impressive as she has become rather redundant in her persistent quest to emulate the R&B/Jazz sounds of her idols, Sade, and make it her own.

Perhaps motherhood will inspire Keys to refocus her artistry and strive toward reviving the refreshing elements of her early career. Maybe that will help her to have both successful singles and albums instead of just the latter.

Thoughts?

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  1. malyeh January 30, 2011

    ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.
    One of my favorite A Keys song ever.
    There’s only one Alicia Keys.
    God bless her.

  2. Iat January 30, 2011

    that background singer can siiiiing lol

  3. Jayden January 30, 2011

    Are you serious?
    “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” & “Unthinkable” are amazing records

  4. HottieHellYeahh January 30, 2011

    Love It

  5. ldl January 30, 2011

    I can’t believe some of these comments about this great singer, songwriter. Redundant? Hardly. Trying to imitate others? That’s ridiculous. Alicia has always seemed like the type of person to do her own thing. Not others. Yes, maybe there is influence, but then there’s always been influence. Love TEOF album. It’s her, not an imitation of anyone else. Just enjoy the music. Can’t wait for the next album.

  6. anita January 30, 2011

    This lady ia an exceptional talent. So good live! This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Not redundant and always herself.

  7. X_POSED99 January 30, 2011

    “From the vault series” shows not only older artists but that younger artists dont perform like they did in her prime. Akeys vocals have changed for someone who’s only 30. Her vocals are lower and more raspy now and her belting tones these days are weird, straining. Yet peeps dont say she’s on crack or weed. The hypocracy!

  8. X_POSED99 January 30, 2011

    Better songwriter/producer than singer.

  9. Dave January 30, 2011

    I don’t think she’s redundant. Her stuff not what it used to be, but it’s not bad either. She’s evolved & moved on. That’s what artist do. He would slay her on her own song (the background male vocalist), I remember checking for him all the time she performed this song live. He sat her b*** right down, Alcia did great too thou. But, them runs & falsetto, Lawd…

  10. Shouw January 30, 2011

    Definitely my Favorite song frome Alicia Keys

  11. ninalal January 30, 2011

    QUEEN ALICIA!!!

  12. Nichole January 30, 2011

    I loved these performances! I remember watching Alicia’s MTV Unplugged with my mom, and it was so enjoyable.

    I absolutely love Diary, and the new joint she hit us with back then. I believe the song is called Unbreakable. Loved it!

    Alicia isn’t one of the best singers, but she’s a great pianist and she can definitely write.

    Good stuff.

  13. TIMMI January 30, 2011

    This song is my JAM! Love the song, love the performance, love the whole “Unplugged” album. Imitating? Redundant?

    You don’t know anything brabra.

    x

  14. WorldWideWaddie.com January 30, 2011

    Alicia’s music overall can be redundant, but her singles (except for Doesn’t Mean Anything) are all different a fresher sound that doesn’t follow the trend that Usher, Beyonce and others follows. Also, you forget that she is a TRUE R&B artist. R&B music is not as hot as it used to be on the pop charts and pop radio from 1992-2005. I applaud Alicia for not giving to that European-trash sound that Usher has fallen into…and guess who sold more albums. #shade

    Another thing Trent, if you are under 30 years old, then you do not know what is the Sade sound at all because Alicia’s sound is veeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrry different. Check your hearing!

  15. Sarah January 30, 2011

    A few issues in this post, what Alicia Keys song even remotely sounds like a Sade song? Yes, she’s the only young artist to duet with her, but she doesn’t make “jazz” music. You lost with that. Another, Alicia was an established artist by then, 9 grammys later and 2 major multi platinum albums. She was not new in any way. You should make statement that claim to be your opinion, just because As I Am and The Element of Freedom didn’t carry the same sounds as the first 2, doesn’t mean they weren’t good. It just shows an artist trying new things. AIA was more vintage soul/pop/rock than R&B. The element of freedom was R&B with a more synth sound. We say she didn’t do well, but look at the UK success with TEOF, that her first #1 album over there with 3 top 10 singles. Empire State of Mind Pt 2 was the most played song, only behind Gaga in 2010. it also produced her biggest #1 R&B hit here in the US “Unthinkable”. That album was/is successful. No artists, not even the ones with #1’s across the charts is selling as she is besides Beyonce & Gaga. Alicia Keys voice is amazing to me, she always adds enough soul where you can feel everything she says. Bloggers don’t really look or know her amazing performances, but fans do… some of them have over 5 million views on YT. She’s an artists that stands the test of time and is loved by many. i know I’ll tolerate her when I’m older as well as now.

    – Sarah, the only time I will comment like this on your site.

  16. Sarah January 30, 2011

    Excuse all the grammatical mistakes, as there are many.

  17. movementlove January 30, 2011

    wtf, NO! The Element of Freedom is a CLASSIC album. That album, from start to finish, is absolutely breathtaking. She laid it down…..she did use&reuse some themes on it, but I think it was in tasteful use!

  18. Roberto January 30, 2011

    stop HATING Alicia’s current work is not redunant in fact her current albumis the best since Diary and her music is NOTHING like Sade in fact her sound shows more inspiration from Prince

  19. BEYBEY January 30, 2011

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but…I agree with Trent.

    Everything after Alicia’s 2nd album sounded like a boring version of Sade. I was completely bored by Element of Freedom!

    I love this woman soooooo much though! Her 2nd album is one of her top 5 favourite albums all time! I miss old Alicia.

  20. LEGENNDTINA4LIFE January 30, 2011

    @X_POSED99
    as some artist get older, their voice becomes more strained.

  21. Robert January 30, 2011

    WOW!!!! TRENT THE F*** made a “From the Vault” post without mentioning Beyonce and Especially Mariah Carey… Thank God.

  22. Kyle January 30, 2011

    I agree with Jayden and the others… “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” & “Unthinkable” are far from uninspired. Sometimes when I’m reading your posts, it feels like you’re trying to meet a minimum word count or that you just like the way a longer post looks.

  23. KAT DELUNA FAN January 30, 2011

    @ROBERT
    Exactly.Alicia keys is the black artist with the strongest fanbase after Beyonce.Those two sell w/o top singles then come the rappers.

    Alicia is redundant and that’s exactly why she has a strong fanbase.People need to understand this !!!

  24. Seriously.. January 30, 2011

    Trent you honestly talk so much rubbish. This post proves you have no clue about half of the things you right about.

    Try Sleeping with a Broken heart and Unthinkable weren’t successful???

    You are indeed very foolish.

  25. Beystanbish January 30, 2011

    Love her

  26. DUMMIES January 30, 2011

    …Uhhhhh…wWen has Mariah or Kelly had 5 CONSECUTIVE #1 Albums?….Ok THEN…You stay praising Certain Artist and puting down others…..

    Alicia Keys is ALICIA KEYS….She does not remind me of anyone. She garners inspiration YES but imitates NO ! ! ! ! !

    All I have to SAY about this post is……..

    Alicia’s..

    ..Awards….Movies…T.V…Live Performances..Her Foundation…Sales…#1’s…Fanbase *See the COMMENTS Above* 😉 Drive…..And the WILL power to BE HERSELF and not be raunchy but a ROLE MODEL speaks for it’s SELF……

    This Post is a JOKE and @SARAH I AGREE 100000% with you 🙂

  27. Beatz January 30, 2011

    Correct me if I’m wrong but, as uninspired the Element of Freedom, weren’t the single and album the best showing she has had in the UK? At the very least we should be grateful she hasn’t tried to incorporate ‘electronic/techno-lite’ into her music but I’m sure that’s coming!

  28. bangbang January 30, 2011

    I don’t care what anyone says, Alicia Keys is an amazing artist! When is REAL talent, with REAL music, and songs with REAL meaning going to make a comeback?

    I guess I’m gonna have to keep waiting.

  29. RiCiBey(Breezy) January 30, 2011

    @BangBang

    My generation is so dumbed down, we wont be seeing those times anytime soon…sad but true. I just downloaded older music and pray that those times come back…

  30. Ariana January 30, 2011

    @X_POSED99
    Agree with you 100%.
    Most of her latest live performances have been a little disappointing, what makes her apart from other singers is her ability to write songs & play the piano so amazingly well, but the singing? No-no.

  31. anonymo January 30, 2011

    Love this. Just reminds me of the passionate beautiful real music Alicia Keys produced before moving to the corporate direction,

  32. FUTURESTARdelux January 30, 2011

    Trent and more of his mundane bitchery… Alicia sounds nothing like Sade musically and the whole point of SINGLES is to sell ALBUMS which Alicia is doing so #StayMad

  33. Geronimo Deuces-Champion January 30, 2011

    wow that was great………….. now this is talent

  34. little kimberly DAMNIT January 30, 2011

    Alicia will always be my fav. She’s always had a big hand in the creative process of her music. A hand that most of your faves, Damn near everybody don’t have. Alicia doesn’t have 2 change a Damn thing, everytime she drops an album I know shes gonna deliver somethin for me to feel in love with. She always delivers something that hits you in the soul , and music Jus doesn’t do that to you nowadays except for the artists that often get overlooked. It’s a beautiful thing that she continues to be successful without following the trends that everyone else follows. And btw none of her music is remotely comparable to Sade, especially not anything after her 2nd album. Trent & Sam , stay far away from r&b!

  35. theman January 30, 2011

    Okay all of her albums have been great/good, this last one was okay i guess. But she is a great artist, and has a nice tone to her voice. Her speaking voice is beautiful. R&b is not the hot choice for music, she stays true to her roots, while her songs from her last album weren’t huge hits on the Pop charts they were big hits on the r&b charts, her album sold nearly 2 million in the Us, which is great for an R&b artist. She has a huge fanbase. Who said she and Beyonce’ don’t need hit singles to sale albums, sorry to say but Beyonce’ kinda does, cause she’s a little more Pop. Her hits play into her success. Alicia is more of an album seller. She does’nt conform to whats hot. She just does her own thing.

    She also has 3 huge multiplatinum albums, and may’be her last will will get a 2x platinum certification soon.

  36. whatever January 30, 2011

    One word- beautiful..

  37. SipDatBoyz January 30, 2011

    damn i miss old alicia

  38. KAT DELUNA FAN January 30, 2011

    @THEMAN
    I SAID IT.

    Beyonce didnt have one top 3 until “irrepleacable” but manage to sell millions.
    The same goes for IASF cause SL went to the top 1 month after the album release.Alicia did have ESOM with jay even before she drops her album wich help her alot.Hell I can even add Nicki minaj to the list.But that’s not the point ..beyonce is not the topic today

  39. NICK January 30, 2011

    man, she is consistent, I mean, she tried switching to a little pop-uptempo, BUT still keeps it R&B & dude the element of freedom is an amazing cd! I love all her cd’s sooo she never feel off or left, she is strait R&B-period! LOVE HER

  40. Marquis / Ciara STAN/FAN January 30, 2011

    LOVE YOU ALICIA KEYS!!!! 😉 F*** Trent .
    Alicia Keys >>>>>>>>>>>>> You Favorite R&B Singer
    #TEAMALICIA

  41. J January 30, 2011

    I love Alicia Keys… my fav. R&B singer! I’m sorry but Beyonce and all the other R&B artists don’t compare to her at all! Alicia is what you call a true artist, a great vocalist, a great songwriter, with great stage presence and even she great skill with a musical instrument! For me the work she has done has been phenomenal! She does not have to sell s** to gain record sales, she doesn’t have to shake her ass in her music videos, she just let’s the music speak for itself! True music that has so much heart & soul and therefore is so timeless for so many people! 12 Grammy’s (1 more for a collaborative album) and still counting she won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and mind you she got all of them all by her damn self not help by her management team, not by marketing herself to the masses, and certaintly not by being in a band or group. Queen ALICIA KEYS! 🙂

  42. Losangeles January 30, 2011

    Anyone who knows real music knows Alicia >>>>>>>> beyonce! Any time, any day baby!

  43. PP January 30, 2011

    ALicia is THE QUEEN (The real one)

  44. donchano January 30, 2011

    To each his own, but I don’t think the second album “Diary” is near as good as the other albums. It’s good but a lot of the songs sound much better on the “Unplugged” album. I believe Alicia continues to get better at what she does. To me she is one of the best singers ever, because she puts her whole self into her music. No one could pour more of their soul into their music. I love her conviction, and the emotion she brings to all her songs. This video does not make me see how much better she was then, it just reminds me of how great she’s always been and still today is. BTW, “Diary” is one of my very favorite songs but I think this version is much better than the one on the second album. Her voice is still great! Looking forward to the new album.

  45. True Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Blue January 30, 2011

    I will also do the exceptionally rare thing and agree wholeheartedly with Trent on this. Her music really has become stale and redundant. It’s like she’s on creative Auto-pilot now. There is no doubt that she is a talented artist in every aspect, no one is trying to dispute that.

    But her latest stuff sucks. It’s boring, it’s unremarkable, it’s as if she’s making music to put people in a coma now. That’s not good. Yes, I’m glad that she hasn’t followed the route of every now-former R&B artist and gone the pop route purely for the sake of popularity, but that’s mainly because she doesn’t need to. She is one of the very, very few contemporary R&B artists who still has mainstream success without having to change her sound. Hence her not “selling out”.

    And I also agree with X_posed99 and Ariana, Alicia is by far a better instrumentalist and songwriter than she is a singer. Now that’s not to say that she isn’t a talented singer, but most of her live performances are quite disappointing in the vocals department. However, when she has her good days, she can really blow you away with her singing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw_zPEKeuf8

    Another thing, I also find her first two albums to have been her best, especially “Diary”. However, I am impressed with her new song “Speechless”, which is about her son, so hopefully motherhood will inspire her to write good stuff again.

  46. J January 31, 2011

    ^^ Hunny, “If I Ain’t Got You”, “Superwoman”, “Un-Thinkable”, etc?

  47. Jarel January 31, 2011

    @true blue I agree with you for the most part. I am also impressed with Speechless and hopefully she is headed back in that direction musically. Hopefully, the reaction she got with “Unthinkable” will let her know the direction to go in.

  48. True Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Blue January 31, 2011

    ^^ If I Ain’t Got You was on Diary, and as for the other two, they’re just okay. Superwoman’s good, but one out of a few decent songs =/= a great album.

  49. hp January 31, 2011

    do any body think b4 bey come back out were gonna get the piials video

  50. dboy January 31, 2011

    @HP
    tbh no, unfortunately though

    but geez must everyone be compared to beyonce, yall are lucky crazy bey stans dint come here to start highlighting all alicia’s flaws

    nexy yall be comparing beyonce to rappers

    as for the video: i love it, twas nice to see it again fter so long, this was my jam then

  51. Taylor swifts number 1 fan January 31, 2011

    No new blogs for ages now… someones sleeping.

  52. hp January 31, 2011

    @,dboy] with the rappers out today,some not all,she cane be compared,LOL

  53. Kim January 31, 2011

    My thoght is that you are an idiot that knows nothing about music. Alicia has evovled like all artist should and it shows in her music, she is consistent in making music that speaks to the soul and that is relatable, this is why her fan base remains solid as a rock and will continue to be so.

  54. Royalkev January 31, 2011

    Alicia have always delivered back to back solid albums and I must say that “Elements” is actually my very favorite. It is the most refreshing Alicia Keys album I’ve heard. I do like all of them that followed behind the first one too! The quality of Alicia’s music isn’t getting any worst, it’s just that the kind of music that’s getting mainstream airplay is changing. It’s a time in music where anything that’s generic and gimmicky rules. There’s nothing much Alicia can do other than wait for the cycle to come back around to finding more authentic artist.

    *Hey guys, my blog is up! check it out: http://www.thepagewithroyalkev.blogspot.com*

  55. Sashca January 31, 2011

    A time in music where you had to be able to sing to make it.

  56. word January 31, 2011

    one thing about this losser trent he dont no anything about music yet he criticises artists. its clear hez just a stupid glorified blogger with no music relevency. stick to journalism and leave music alone cause your absolutly clueless. alicia has gotten better by time!!!

  57. word January 31, 2011

    one thing about this losser trent he dont no anything about music yet he criticises artists. its clear hez just a stupid glorified blogger with no music relevency. stick to journalism and leave music alone cause your absolutly clueless. if anything alicia has gotten better by time!!!

  58. theman January 31, 2011

    Wether you have a to3 ot top5 that is still considered a hit song. Beyonce’ had a top5 Hot100 hit with Ring The Alarm, and “If I Were A Boy” went to #3. That is still a big hit. Her hits sale her albums. I doubt it that Beyonce’ would push nearly 2 million with just an r&b hit, when she only went 3x platinum with a rerelease, and “Irreplaceable” being a monster hit, not to mention her song with Shakira being a huge hit. Her singles for the most part coincide with her album sales.

  59. antertain January 31, 2011

    Jermaine Paul was killing it with Alicia Keys.

    Love this performance and that Album was a great album.

    Classic LIVE shiiiiittttttt..

  60. fagtg January 31, 2011

    😛 😛 😛 I love this , i lov e my b oyfriend, he is a nice guy !.

    i met him via —– Bla c k’w h it e’F li rts. C” 0- M—-

    The most successful interra cial da t ing c lub. If you are still waiting for your sweet “milk” or “chocolate”, don’t hesitate to check it !! Don’t let your babies wait too long for you !!

  61. Mely B January 31, 2011

    I am a huge fan and loved Alicia’s music & performances during this era. As fans the one thing that people never discuss is how much actual freedom these artists have with regard to musical content. Clive Davis has been touted as a genius for discovering and nuturing talented young women HOWEVER he is also known for unsuccessfully trying to force pop crossover success from r&b/soul females (Phyllis Hyman & Angela Bofill leapt to mind).

    I don’t believe that Alicia has as much creative freedom as I initially assumed because her last two albums have been so 70’s soul/pop-ish as opposed to the r&b/soul of her 1st two albums. I can certainly understand a label’s concern about their bottom line but what a lot of them don’t understand is that when they drive these artists away from their core audience sales will continue to suffer.

    Overall I am a fan of AKeys and will continue to support her UNLESS she follows the pack and her next album is some techno/electronica dance bs!!

  62. koko February 1, 2011

    Alicia is classic R&B and even if she tries new things I don’t think she will ever abandon what made her successful. The song Speechless proves that. Can’t wait for new music……..

  63. thinkaboutit February 3, 2011

    @true blue, If you don’t think Alicia is even much better singing live, then you are not an Alicia Keys fan. She is absolutely amazing! Whether she is perfect or not doesn’t matter because she puts so much of herself into and is so personal in her performances, she just really shines doing the live shows. No One can outshine her here. It doesn’t seem like a job or chore she seems to really enjoy what she does and we definitely enjoy it too.

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