Alicia Keys ends 2016 on high note

Alicia Keys, who will headline the Rock On! 2017 concert at the The Float @ Marina Bay, promises a raw, energetic set.
Alicia Keys, who will headline the Rock On! 2017 concert at the The Float @ Marina Bay, promises a raw, energetic set.PHOTO: RCA

The Grammy winner is pleased with Here, the album she released last month, which she says is her most cohesive one

Grammy winner Alicia Keys, who is ushering in the new year in Singapore as the headline act at the Rock On! 2017 concert at the The Float @ Marina Bay, is ending 2016 on a high.

Not only has she been celebrated around the world for her decision to stop using make-up in a rallying cry for natural feminine beauty, she also released last month an album she calls her "most cohesive" work to date.

Like many of the 35-year-old singer's previous releases, her sixth album, Here, is a commercial success, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

It has also been critically acclaimed, with Rolling Stone praising its "gritty, eclectic, political" feel and veteran American critic Robert Christgau calling it her best record since 2001's Songs In A Minor, her breakthrough debut which won five Grammy awards.

Keys says Here has "so much to dig into and talk about".

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"It's been the most liberating feeling. I've found a new side of myself through the creation of this music. And I love how we are all connecting on it."

She is equally enthusiastic about her anti-make-up stance, which has led to widespread discussions not just about her looks, but also about how everyone should be able to discover for themselves who they really are.

"I feel blessed to be able to remind myself that as women and as people, we are allowed to discover who we are and what makes us feel good. And we can create what that means for us individually.

"That has nothing to do with make-up. That has to do with freedom of expression and freedom of choice.

"And I love that my own self search is creating a conversation we can all ask ourselves," says Keys, who is of African-American and Irish-Italian-Scottish descent.

This year, she also became prominent on television. She joined the 11th season of popular reality singing show The Voice as one of its new coaches.

Working with the young singers on The Voice gave her a new perspective as a singer, says Keys, the mother of two sons, aged 10 and two, with her husband, hip-hop/ R&B producer Swizz Beatz.

"It makes me realise just how similar we all are, how much we are all just hoping to find and create our dreams.

"I love coaching We, she is an incredible artist with an unlimited future," she says of 17-year-old We McDonald, one of the five budding singers in her team on the show. McDonald finished in third place.

Keys, who previously performed here in 2004 and 2008, says that the audience at the countdown show tonight can expect to see a "raw" and energetic set comprising past hits as well as tunes from Here.

While she is still refining her New Year's resolutions, she says that 2017 will see her busy finding "more ways to get closer to my true self and those that I love, more music and more art".

"I'm also looking forward to us as a world getting stronger, more connected, more tolerant and loving of each other."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Alicia Keys ends 2016 on high note'. Print Edition | Subscribe