Alicia Keys is one of the newest arrivals on the ever growing circuit of teens trying their luck in the music industry—but she isn't your ordinary teen pop star. She isn't a Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera—she comes from a new breed of teen musicians. Alicia Keys mixes hip-hop flavor with insightful songwriting. Along with her beautiful voice, and her expertise as a classically trained pianist, we can see at once that Alicia Keys is a warm welcome away from the teen pop sensations who don't write their own music or lyrics.
Ms. Keys, born on January 25, 1981, was born and raised in Manhattan, New York, where, at age five, her parents noticed her special gift for music. Her mother quickly signed her up for classical piano lessons. These early piano lessons allowed Keys to blossom into the talented pianist she is today. Her mother told her, "You can quit anything else but you can never give up your piano lessons." Due to the support of her mother, Alicia Keys continued with the piano, and it ultimately became one of her main passions. She recognized her mother as one of the major influences in her life.
Another individual to exert an influence on Alicia Keys' life was one of her music instructors. While attending the Professional Performance Arts School of Manhattan, where she was majoring in choir, one of the instructors helped train her voice, thus allowing Alicia Keys' musical talents to rise to a higher level. "This teacher spent so much time with me, she became the closest thing to vocal training I received."
Alicia Keys was not only talented in music—she was academically gifted as well. Her outstanding academic grades allowed her to finish high school early, at age 16. Columbia University immediately accepted her, but Keys, wishing to pursue her musical dreams instead, put off school for awhile and concentrated on her music.
In 1998, record labels began bidding for the rights to sign her, until, eventually, in 1998, she signed to Arista Records. She continued writing songs (something which she had been doing since age 14), producing and recording for her debut. She began being known as this "young girl named Alicia."
In late 1999, Alicia Keys followed Clive Davis to his newfound J records. Clive Davis was the former president of Arista Records, but left the company—he was followed by Alicia Keys and other artists such as Busta Rhymes to his new record label. Davis has been known for supporting and grooming many high-profile artists in the past (Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen and Santana), so Keys followed him, not ready to let this opportunity pass by.
Alicia Keys debut album, Songs In A Minor (2001) not only possesses a clever title, but has also received much critical and commercial success. The album—most of which was written and produced by Ms. Keys herself—does contain collaborations with Jermaine Dupri (on "Girlfriend") and with Isaac Hayes (on "Rock Wit U") from the Shaft soundtrack. The new album debuted on the Billboard album charts at number one, thanks to the hit single, "Fallin'."
Alicia Keys has proven herself to be a true musical prodigy—learning classical piano during an age where most of us are eating paste and running around in circles driving our parents crazy. With her widely popular and successful debut album, one can only sit and wonder what this young artist has in store for us next.