TGJ Replay: Alicia Keys’ ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’

Published: Thursday 29th Jan 2015 by Rashad
alicia keys-thatgrapejuice

Welcome, once again, to TGJ Replay.

Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest retrospective segment – a written quest, if you will, to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.

Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.  As this week brought with it the 34th birthday of Grammy-winning R&B superstar Alicia Keys, we thought it time to add her ‘Diary of Alicia Keys’ album to our entries of ‘Replays.’

Get reacquainted with her 2003 sophomore set below:


In 2001, Alicia Keys was (to many) a musical savior of sorts.  Her youthful, yet authentic piano driven melodies and soulful performances came as a much-needed deviation from the day’s top 40 radio drenched in booty-shaking hip hop and bubblegum teen pop.

After fans fell for ‘Fallin,’ her debut #1 single, and hoisted its parent album ‘Songs In A Minor’ to identical heights on the Billboard 200, the Grammy committee awarded the project 5 trophies in one night (making her the youngest overall and second female artist to achieve this).  With commercial and critical acclaim galore, all eyes and ears were keen to see and hear how album #2 would tackle the major feat of matching ‘Minor’s success.

2003 would bring with it the answer to the challenge in the form of ‘Diary of Alicia Keys,’ – a chronicle of the young singer’s life as told through diary entries-turned-songs steered by the production and writing of then-rumored boyfriend Krucial Keys, Timbaland, Kanye West, Dre & Vidal, the budding diva herself, and more.  Though borrowing some sonic elements from her inaugural release, the new project also saw her shy away from its ‘neo-soul’-tinged offerings to fuse harder hip hop sounds with the ease of Motown funk.  Proof of this can be found aboard the album’s lead single…

Alicia Keys - You Dont Know My Name 1

Released in November 2003, the album was kicked off by the Kanye West-produced ‘You Don’t Know My Name.’  Featuring background vocals from then-little known singer/songwriter John Legend, the tune’s bass driven, 70s-sampled style (a staple of West’s) was finding growing fanship across the industry – a growth made concrete by ‘Name.’

For, just one month after the songstress introduced the bop to the masses on the wings of one of her most cinematic videos to date, the massive critical and commercial fanfare that greeted it shot Alicia’s ‘Name’ right to the top 10.

As it was working its way up to a #3 peak on the Hot 100, its parent album, ‘Diary,’ was etched in the #1 spot on Billboard 200 with sales in excess off 618,000 its first week.

With 1st week numbers nearly triple those of her first album and double that of nearest R&B competitors Beyonce and Ashanti‘s 2003 releases (despite not sharing boasting their successes on the year’s Hot 100), ‘Diary’s impressive movement quickly quieted murmurs of the dreaded sophomore slump and reasserted Keys’ position at the forefront of the genre.

And, for whatever doubt ‘Name’ may have left naysayers, their silence was ushered in by the performance of the album’s second single ‘If I Ain’t Got You.’

Said to have been inspired the death of R&B songstress Aaliyah, the tune was already a fan favorite weeks before its video made its way to screens.  Like ‘Name,’ ‘Aint’s visual tapped a well-known rapper to portray Keys’ love interest – a move that some argued was a strategic way for her to increase demonstrations of femininity. For, while success knocked heavily on her door in the early 2000s, it was also consorted with whispers of lesbianism due to tomboy-ish behavior in videos and live performances.  Later quelled as tabloids began to link her with rapper co-stars and, later, longtime collaborator Krucial Keys, the rumors did nothing to stall the tune’s  success on charts.

Climbing all the way to a #4 peak on the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Ain’t’ – critically acclaimed for its passionate vocal performance and simple, yet effective instrumental composition – would quickly be likened to an “older sister” of the singer’s signature hit ‘Fallin.’

‘If I Ain’t Got You’ was still very much making a dent on the Hot 100 by the time the album’s title track, ‘Diary,’ was selected as its successor.  And, like its chart-topping forerunner, it too would know top 10 glory on the Hot 100 with a #8 peak.

Any further proof needed that the girl was truly on fire was delivered when she teamed with 2004’s ultimate success story Usher on the #1 duet ‘My Boo.’ A collaboration idea birthed from the Atlantan-crooner’s remake of Keys hit ‘Ain’t,’ the song would tide fans over until the release of the songstress’s final single of the year – ‘Karma.’

Despite being the first and only single of hers from the era to miss the top 10 altogether (peaking at #20 on Hot 100), its stylized video and critical reception were on par with its predecessor’s as reviewers lauded the tune for its fusion of classical music and hip hop – two self-proclaimed loves of the budding diva’s.

Bringing the ‘Diary’ era to a close, ‘Karma’ would help lead the album to over 8 million in worldwide sales. On the accolades tip, the album brought home a Grammy for ‘Best R&B Album,’ while its singles ‘Ain’t’ and ‘Name’ captured the ‘Best Female R&B Vocal Performance’ and ‘Best R&B Song’ categories respectively at the 2005 ceremony.

As serious fans of Alicia, it’s never a surprise to hear us blasting ‘Heartburn’ and ‘Samsonite Man’ here at That Grape Juice HQ.  And, while we’ll be the first to admit that her latest project – ‘Girl On Fire’ – had some serious missteps, we hope that its mixed reception comes as cue to Mrs. Beatz to go back to the drawing board that made her first two album the mega-successes they were.

While we press “play” on ‘Karma,’ you tell us:

Your thoughts?

Comments 15

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  1. Stephy. January 29, 2015

    I love this album. It’s my absolute favorite from her. I remember, always hearing “You Don’t Know My Name” on the radio going & coming from School. My favorite song on this album was “Dairy”… I just love the melody, lyrics & overall flow of that song. Good article Rashad. Alicia was Bey’s REAL competition during those days. Musically speaking.

    • Truth January 29, 2015

      She still is. Nobody in the R&B Field is selling like them. Not Mary or Mariah. I don’t count Rihanna because she’s primarily pop. Her and Beyonce have the the most Grammy with 17 and 15 respectively and Alicia has sold 18.5 million and Beyonce 15 million.

      • Stephy. January 29, 2015

        Its a crime that Mariah only has 5 Grammy Awards. I truly believe, Alicia deserves all her Grammy’s tho. Her music is timeless tbh..

    • Al January 29, 2015

      Diary oh is the all time jam off that album. The end bit is incredible. Alicia is timeless her work is more memorable over anyone’s during that period

  2. Beysus January 29, 2015

    That Karma/Superstition mash up was awesome!!!!

  3. Sherry January 29, 2015

    This was the last album of hers that I purchased. It is an AMAZING body of work.

  4. gina January 29, 2015

    A Keys>>>>>>>>>>>>beyonce

  5. TheElusiveLamb January 29, 2015

    This is still my favorite AK album and era. She can’t top this album.

  6. Eloviano January 29, 2015

    Man this album was my shitt back in the day and still is. Brings back so many memories. I remember when My Boo came out, I so wanted Usher & Alicia to be a couple. Their chemistry on the songs video was something else. One of her best album’s alongside SIAM & EOF.

  7. King M.J January 29, 2015

    Alica’s an amazing talent, and I have all of her albums, this one along with her first to me are the best.

  8. King M.J January 29, 2015


  9. Kylie Jenner stan January 29, 2015

    Alicia Keys actually has talent and doesn’t have to steal song credits 🙁

  10. JOHNVIDAL January 29, 2015

    Amazing! What a real talent. Probably the most successful female singer-songwriter in the USA of the last 15 years, something really hard to achive when you stay true to yourself and only make R&B music. Amazing career. She´s also one of the people with more huge hits which combine quality and commercial successs of the last decade, the the R&B field, definitely the best at that.

  11. LDN Chick January 29, 2015

    I love this album, I remember buying it for my mother as a birthday gift when it first came out.

  12. chizzyblaze September 4, 2015

    I love her so much, she is one of my favourite role model

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