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Songs in A Minor is the debut studio album by American singer and songwriter Alicia Keys. It was released on June 5, 2001, by J Records.

Songs in A Minor
AliciaKeys-SongsInAMinor-music-album.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 5, 2001 (2001-06-05)
Recorded1998–2001
Studio
Genre
Length63:04
LabelJ
Producer
Alicia Keys chronology
Songs in A Minor
(2001)
The Diary of Alicia Keys
(2003)
Singles from Songs in A Minor
  1. "Fallin'"
    Released: April 2, 2001
  2. "A Woman's Worth"
    Released: February 12, 2002
  3. "How Come You Don't Call Me"
    Released: June 4, 2002
  4. "Girlfriend"
    Released: December 24, 2002

Keys began writing songs for the album in 1995 at age 14 and recording the album in 1998 for Columbia Records, but after they rejected it, she signed a recording contract with Clive Davis's Arista Records and eventually J. An accomplished, classically trained pianist, Keys wrote, arranged and produced the majority of the album herself. It is a neo soul album with elements of R&B, soul, jazz, hip hop, blues, classical, and gospel music. Lyrically, the songs explore the complexities and various stages of personal relationships. Despite its title, "Jane Doe" and "Troubles" are the only songs on the album actually in the key of A minor.

Songs in A Minor debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 236,000 copies in its first week. To promote the album, Keys embarked on her first headlining concert tour, entitled the Songs in A Minor Tour. By 2008, the album had sold over 6.2 million copies in the United States and 12 million copies worldwide. It was also an immediate critical success and has since been regarded as a classic. The album earned Keys several accolades, including five Grammy Awards at the 44th Grammy Awards. In 2013, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 57th in its list of the greatest albums of all time.

Contents

Writing and recordingEdit

Keys began writing the songs that would constitute Songs in A Minor at age 14, "Butterflyz" being her first composition for the album.[1][2][3][4] Keys had been accepted to Columbia University, which she attended after graduating from the Professional Performing Arts School at age 16.[2][5] She dropped out after four weeks to pursue her music career full time.[2] She signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label. Keys co-wrote and recorded a song titled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 hit film, Men in Black. She also contributed to the So So Def Christmas recordings.[6] Keys began producing and recording the album in 1998.[7] She completed it that same year, but it was rejected by Columbia Records. Keys explained that the producers she was required to work with by the label would tell her to "just get in the booth and sing", which frustrated her.[8] Her record contract with Columbia ended after a dispute with the label. Keys then performed for Clive Davis, who sensed a "special, unique" artist; he bought Keys' contract from Columbia and signed her to Arista Records, which later disbanded.[6][9][1]

Following Davis to his newly formed J Records label, Keys rented an apartment and struggled to create an album. She began writing the song "Troubles" and came to a realization: "That's when the album started comin' together. Finally, I knew how to structure my feelings into something that made sense, something that can translate to people. That was a changing point. My confidence was up, way up."[10] Keys learned how to produce by asking questions to the producers and engineers; she wrote, arranged and produced a majority of the album.[8][11] She recorded the songs "Rock wit U" and "Rear View Mirror", which were featured on the soundtracks to the films Shaft (2000) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), respectively.[12][13] One of the final songs Keys recorded was "Fallin'".[10] A total of 32 songs were recorded for the album.[14] Originally titled Soul Stories in A Minor, the title of the album was changed over concerns that it would limit exposure only to black radio stations.[8]

Music and lyricsEdit

Songs in A Minor is a neo soul album with classical piano references and arpeggios.[16] Keys incorporates classical piano with R&B, soul and jazz into the album's music.[6][8][17] With influences of classical piano, classic soul and East Coast hip hop,[6] Keys described the album as a "fusion of my classical training, meshed with what I grew up listening to [...] things I've been exposed to and drawn from and my life experiences".[15] Jane Stevenson of Jam! described the music as "old-school urban sounds and attitude set against a backdrop of classical piano and sweet, warm vocals".[18] USA Today's Steve Jones wrote that Keys "taps into the blues, soul, jazz and even classical music to propel haunting melodies and hard-driving funk".[19] John Mulvey of Yahoo! Music called the album "a gorgeous and ambitious melding of classic soul structures and values to hyper-modern production technique".[20]

The album's opening track, "Piano & I", begins with a rendition of Ludwig van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, combined with a hip hop beat.[21] The introduction is followed by "Girlfriend", which was produced by Jermaine Dupri.[6] Commended for its "crisp production",[22] the song samples Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Brooklyn Zoo".[6] Keys' cover of Prince's 1982 ballad "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" (retitled "How Come You Don't Call Me") was inspired by a long-term relationship with a partner.[6][23] The music critic for PopMatters felt that the song was credible, but fell short from the original and Stephanie Mills's 1980s cover.[6] "Fallin'", the gospel-driven lead single and often considered Keys's signature song,[15][24] contains a sample of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World".[6] The song earned Keys comparisons to Aretha Franklin.[25]

"A Woman's Worth", the second single released from the album, is a "gospel-tinged"[26] song that recommends to men to show respect to their female partner.[27] "Jane Doe" is a funk-driven song, with backing vocals provided by Kandi Burruss.[6][27] "The Life", which elicits Curtis Mayfield's "Gimmie Your Love", describes Keys's "philosophy of life and struggle".[6] The song was compared to the work of the English band Sade.[26] "Mr. Man" contains elements Latin American music[26] and was described as a "sexy and soulful duet", in which Jimmy Cozier "adds his spice".[27] The album ends with the hidden track "Lovin' U", which Christian Ward of NME compared to works of the musical group The Supremes.[26]

Release and promotionEdit

 
Keys performing in Frankfurt, Germany, 2002

In advance of Songs in A Minor, "Girlfriend" was released to urban radio in early 2001 to "introduce" Keys.[6] In order to promote her, music executive Clive Davis booked Keys to The Tonight Show. Afterward, he sent the music video of the first single, "Fallin'", to MTV; "half the women had tears down their face" when the video finished playing.[14] "Fallin'" peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, where the song remained atop the charts for six and four weeks, respectively.[28][29] It became the most played song in the United States at the time and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[30][31] The album's second single, "A Woman's Worth", peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.[32] The third single, "How Come You Don't Call Me" peaked at number 59 on the same chart,[33] while the fourth single, "Girlfriend", peaked at number 82 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[34]

Davis wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey, asking her to allow Keys, along with Jill Scott and India.Arie, to perform on her show.[14] The group of singers performed on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where Keys "wowed" the audience.[35] This led to the album's pre-orders to double that night.[8] From August to October 2001, Keys toured alongside recording artist Maxwell in promotion of the album.[36] Soon after, she embarked on her Songs in A Minor Tour.[28]

Songs in A Minor debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 236,000 copies in its first week on the chart in July 2001.[37] Through word of mouth and promotion, the album sold 450,000 copies in its second week and remained atop the chart for three non-consecutive weeks.[10][38] The album became one of the bestselling albums of 2001.[39] The album was certified six times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA),[40][41] and it had sold 6,348,000 copies in the US by June 2014.[42] Songs in A Minor sold over 12 million copies worldwide.[43] Billboard ranked the album at number 32 on the Billboard 200 decade-end chart for the 2000s and at number 12 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums decade-end chart.[44][45] The RIAA lists it as one of the Best Selling Albums of All Time.[46]

On June 28, 2011, Songs in A Minor was re-released as deluxe and collector's editions in commemoration of its 10th anniversary.[47] Both editions feature previously unreleased material and a documentary chronicling the making of the original album. On June 26, 2011, at the BET Awards Keys performed a medley of songs which included "Typewriter", "A Woman's Worth" with Bruno Mars and "Maybach Music" with Rick Ross and "Fallin'". On June 28, 2011, Keys performed "Fallin'", "Butterflyz" and "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" on Good Morning America.[48] BET aired "The Story So Far... Alicia Keys" special highlighting Alicia's 10-year career through her BET moments on June 28, 2011. On June 30, Keys performed Songs in A Minor in its entirety and telling stories of its recording in a show titled "Piano & I: A One Night Only Event With Alicia Keys" at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.[47] In an interview for MTV, Keys called its 10th anniversary "incredibly surreal for me" and said of the album in retrospect, "This album is possibly the most precious to me as your first album only happens once, and so Songs in A Minor will always hold a special place in my life that's filled with amazing memories. I'm so proud the songs are still being enjoyed, and I'm crazy excited to share songs never heard before."[47][49]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic78/100[50]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [51]
Entertainment WeeklyB[24]
Los Angeles Times    [52]
The New Zealand Herald     [25]
NME9/10[53]
Q     [54]
Rolling Stone     [55]
Uncut     [56]
USA Today    [57]
The Village VoiceA−[58]

Songs in A Minor received positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, it received an average score of 78, based on 10 reviews.[50]

Reviewing the album in NME, Sam Faulkner described the balance between contemporary music and retrospective as "an act of pure genius".[53] Q magazine hailed it as "a prime candidate to head up the nu-soul revolution ... with a voice that challenges Mary J. Blige's".[54] Steve Jones of USA Today said that "Keys already has a musical, artistic and thematic maturity that many more experienced artists never achieve".[19] The Washington Post's Richard Harrington wrote favorably of Keys' musical influences on the album and expressed that she has "vocal maturity and writing instincts beyond her years".[59] PopMatters critic Mark Anthony Neal praised Keys' performance on the album and called it "a distinct and oft-times brilliant debut from an artist who clearly has a fine sense of her creative talents".[6] Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, said that the "grace and grit" of the first half warrant the "auspicious debut" label and that, after some "bores that threaten to sink the project midway through," Keys sustains the album with the songs at the end.[58]

Keys' vocal performance was lauded;[18][51][53] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine declared that Keys' displayed a "powerful range, proving she can belt along with the best of them".[22] Uncut called the album "frequently stunning" and said that Keys sings like "a young Aretha Franklin".[56] However, some found her lyrics to be sub-par to her singing and musical ability.[51][55] The New Zealand Herald's Russell Baillie stated that Keys "might indicate abundant talent aligned to neatly reverential vintage soul style", but expressed that the songs "don't add up to anything particularly memorable".[25] Entertainment Weekly's Beth Johnson called the second half of the album slacked with "sad sack teen themes", but called it a promising album.[24] Rolling Stone's Barry Walters perceived her singing as more mature than her songwriting, but commended Keys for her "commanding presence" on the album.[55] Los Angeles Times writer Robert Hilburn said that it "makes a convincing case that's she's going far—in both a commercial and creative sense".[52]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine perceived the album's music as "rich enough to compensate for some thinness in the writing" and called it "a startling assured, successful debut that deserved its immediate acclaim and is already aging nicely".[51] Barry Walters wrote in a later article for Rolling Stone, "the album has aged well – excepting a drum-machine beat or two, it feels timeless."[60] In the Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2011), Colin Larkin said Keys had fused urban R&B, hip hop, and blues on what he called "a minor classic of modern soul".[61] Songs in A Minor is regarded as an influential and distinctive album of the era.[4][62][63][64][65][35]

AccoladesEdit

Songs in A Minor led Keys to win five awards at the 2002 Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for "Fallin'", Best New Artist, and Best R&B Album; "Fallin'" was also nominated for Record of the Year. Keys became the second female solo artist to win five Grammy Awards in a single night, following Lauryn Hill at the 1999 Grammy Awards.[66] The album also won a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album.[67] Keys was also named Best New Artist at the 2002 World Music Awards.[68] "Fallin'" was ranked at number 37 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 Years in 2003[69] and was ranked the 413th greatest song of all time by Blender magazine.[70] The album was ranked number two on the Rolling Stone magazine's Top 10 of 2001, number 18 on The Village Voice's 2001 Pazz & Jop list, number 27 on Mojo magazine's Best 40 Albums of 2001 and was also named one of Q magazine's 100 Greatest Albums Ever.[71][72] Q also listed the album as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.[73] In 2009, Rolling Stone named it the 95th greatest album of the past decade, while "Fallin'" ranked at number 62 on the magazine's "100 Best Songs of the Decade" list.[74][75] In 2013, Entertainment Weekly ranked Songs in A Minor the 57th greatest album of all time, considering it as one of the biggest albums ever for a female artist.

Track listingEdit

No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Piano & I"Alicia Keys1:52
2."Girlfriend"
  • Keys
  • Dupri
3:34
3."How Come You Don't Call Me"Prince
  • Keys
  • Brothers
3:57
4."Fallin'"KeysKeys3:30
5."Troubles"
  • Keys
  • Brothers[a]
4:28
6."Rock wit U"
  • Keys
  • Taneisha Smith
  • Brothers
  • Keys
  • Brothers
5:36
7."A Woman's Worth"
  • Keys
  • Erika Rose
Keys5:03
8."Jane Doe"
  • Keys
  • Kandi
3:48
9."Goodbye"KeysBrian McKnight4:20
10."The Life"
  • Keys
  • Smith
  • Brothers
  • Keys
  • Brothers[a]
5:25
11."Mr. Man" (duet with Jimmy Cozier)
  • Keys
  • Cozier
4:09
12."Never Felt This Way" (interlude)McKnightKeys2:01
13."Butterflyz"KeysKeys4:08
14."Why Do I Feel So Sad"
  • Keys
  • Brothers
4:25
15."Caged Bird"KeysKeys3:02
16."Lovin U" (hidden track)KeysKeys3:49
Total length:63:04

Notes

  • ^a signifies additional production concepts
  • ^b signifies a main producer and remixer
  • ^c signifies a remix producer
  • ^d signifies a co-producer

Sample credits

Remixed & Unplugged in A MinorEdit

Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor
 
Remix album / Live album by
ReleasedOctober 22, 2002 (2002-10-22)
Recorded2001–2002 (remixes)
August 10, 2002 (concert)
VenueKeyArena
(Seattle, Washington)
Length49:49
LabelJ

An album of remixes and live songs, Remixed & Unplugged in A Minor (issued in some countries as Songs in A Minor: Remixed & Unplugged), was released in select countries on October 22, 2002, by J Records. The album's live portion was edited from a performance recorded on August 10, 2002, at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.

Track listingEdit

Remixed
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Girlfriend" (KrucialKeys Sista Girl Mix)
  • Keys
  • Dupri
  • Thompson
3:27
2."Gangsta Lovin'" (Eve featuring Alicia Keys)
  • Alisa Yarbrough
  • Jonah Ellis
  • Lonnie Simmons
3:59
3."Fallin'" (Remix) (featuring Busta Rhymes and Rampage)KeysBrothers[f]3:56
4."A Woman's Worth" (Remix)
  • Keys
  • Rose
3:20
5."Butterflyz" (Roger's Release Mix)Keys3:54
6."Troubles" (Jay-J & Chris Lum Bootleg Mix)
  • Keys
  • Brothers
4:24
7."How Come You Don't Call Me" (Neptunes Remix)Prince
  • Keys
  • The Neptunes[h]
4:23
8."Fallin'" (Ali version)KeysKeys4:30
Total length:49:49
Unplugged
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
9."Moonlight Sonata" / "L'Interludio, Ambivalente" / "Ain't Misbehavin'"2:22
10."Goodbye"Keys2:49
11."Never Felt This Way" (interlude)
  • McKnight
  • Brandon Barnes
1:45
12."Butterflyz"Keys0:52
13."Caged Bird"Keys2:03
14."I Got a Little Something for You"Keys1:45
15."Someday We'll All Be Free"
6:24

Notes

  • ^e signifies a remix producer
  • ^f signifies a main producer and remixer
  • ^g signifies additional production concepts
  • ^h signifies a remixer and additional producer

Songs in A Minor: 10th Anniversary EditionEdit

Songs in A Minor: 10th Anniversary Edition
 
Studio album (reissue) by
ReleasedJune 28, 2011 (2011-06-28)
Genre
  • R&B
  • soul
  • neo soul
  • jazz
Label

The 10th Anniversary Edition was released on the 10-year anniversary of the release of Songs in A Minor. It comes in two editions—the 10th Anniversary Edition and the Collector's Edition. The first disc contains the original album. The second disc included in both editions contains bonus songs, including unreleased songs from the era, alternate versions, and remixes hand-picked by Keys. The Collector's Edition contains more bonus songs, as well as live songs, and it comes with a DVD that features a documentary on the making of album, and music videos. A vinyl version of the original album was also made available.[citation needed]

Track listingEdit

PersonnelEdit

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Songs in A Minor.[76]

ChartsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[139] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[140] Gold 20,000*
Belgium (BEA)[141] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[142] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[143] Platinum 50,000^
France (SNEP)[144] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[145] Platinum 300,000^
Italy (FIMI)[146] Platinum 100,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[147] Gold 100,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[148] 2× Platinum 160,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[149] Platinum 15,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[150] Gold 25,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[151] Gold 50,000*
South Africa (RiSA)[152] Platinum 50,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[153] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[154] Platinum 80,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[155] 2× Platinum 80,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[157] 3× Platinum 1,144,603[156]
United States (RIAA)[41] 6× Platinum 6,000,000[42]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[158] 3× Platinum 3,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

Region Date Edition(s) Format Label
United States June 5, 2001 Standard CD

cassette

J
Canada June 26, 2001 Sony Music
United Kingdom July 23, 2001
Australia September 3, 2001
Germany
Japan February 27, 2002 BMG
France October 29, 2002 Sony Music
Worldwide June 28, 2011
  • 10th Anniversary
  • Collector's
J

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Track 1
  2. ^ Track 2
  3. ^ Tracks 3–6, 10 and 13–16
  4. ^ Track 8
  5. ^ Track 9
  6. ^ Track 11
  7. ^ Track 12

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (January 27, 2002). "Music; To Be Alicia Keys: Young, Gifted and in Control". The New York Times. pp. 1–3. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
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  4. ^ a b Preezy (June 5, 2016). "How Alicia Keys' 'Songs In A Minor' Album Mastered The Art Of Classical Soul". The Boombox. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  5. ^ "Oprah Talks to Alicia Keys". O, The Oprah Magazine. September 2004. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
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  7. ^ "New Faces in Music". Jet. Vol. 100 no. 5. 2004. p. 59. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
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  9. ^ Leahey, Andrew. "Alicia Keys – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
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  11. ^ Kimpel 2006, p. 68
  12. ^ Brasor, Philip (October 3, 2001). "Alicia Keys: 'Songs in A Minor'". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. "Dr. Dolittle 2 – Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
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  16. ^ Smucker et al. 2004, p. 449.
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BibliographyEdit

Further readingEdit