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…
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: