Alicia Keys Covers Complex: Talks New Album, Frank Ocean, and Motherhood

By all means Alicia Keys is truly a girl on fire. With a new life – husband, child, and album in tow, Keys filled Complex Magazine in on her musical and life changes.

The ever-evolving artist isn’t one to follow suit when it comes to music trends. She sets her own tone, blazing on the scene each time as she drops her long-awaited, carefully crafted masterpieces of albums. Her only competition – herself. “I’m competitive with myself in the sense that I want to get better,” said the “Girl on Fire” singer-songwriter. “It’s not that I’m obsessively dissecting myself, but there’s a critique that happens. I am very driven. I’m not comparing myself to other people. I don’t wanna be like her or him. I want to by my best.”

With an attitude to always come with something better than the rest, naturally the new short-haired songstress feels her latest album, her fifth, is the best of all.

“It’s not a departure,” said the “Girl on Fire” singer-songwriter on the direction of her new approaching album. “It’s growth. I love the way that I’ve been able to go deeper into my lyrics and my songwriting and go to a place I was too afraid to access before.”

Girl on Fire
unquestionably unleashes sounds and lyrics we haven’t previously heard from the singer. Most notably her song “Brand New Me,” a song the new mother told the magazine was “the anchor” of the album; gives off a more assertive and candid tone. A song, that though doesn’t mention any names, seems to be directed directly at critics of her controversial relationship with producer Swizz Beatz, who was still legally married to R&B singer Mashonda, when the two fell in love.

Listen to Alicia Keys’ “Brand New Me”

Explaining the song’s subject matter Keys said, “Don’t be mad that I’m different.” “Don’t be mad that I’m changed. Don’t be mad that I’m grown. You can’t affect me the way you once did. You can’t be mad. Like, how could you be mad?”

“My favorite part of that song is the bridge. The bridge says, ‘If you were a friend, you’d want to get to know me again/If you were worth the while, you’d be happy to see me smile/I’m not expectin’ sorry. I’m too busy finding myself.’ All of us have had that type of realization: ‘You don’t control me. You might have at one time, but you don’t anymore.’ I love that song so much. It’s so freaking real,” said singer.

Though she seems to be opening up more now than ever, this will likely be the most transparent we get when it comes to her private life. “The whole freaking world is looking at your shit. It’s scary. I didn’t want to say every single thing because you don’t want people to know that. There’s personal and there’s public, and I deserve the right to have a personal space,” said Keys.

She may not choose to be completely open with her own personal life, but she does admire one brave soul who chose to be publicly open with his. A fan of Frank Ocean, who co-wrote “One Thing” on her new album, Keys took the time out to express her admiration for Ocean’s open letter about his sexuality. “That was super brave and I’m so glad that he wrote it,” said Keys. “He is the voice for so many people. We’re all boxed in to these stupid things that we’re taught is the way we’re supposed to be and it’s so ridiculous. There are so many people that need a champion to assure them that no matter who you are, you are a beautiful person. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re talented or intelligent. Thank God that we have come to this place where we can actually know and be more open to the fact that people come in all different ways. And that’s great because it’s a very boring world otherwise.”

New collaborations, sounds, and a new look to boot, change seems to be the major theme of this album. One of the best changes for her of course was motherhood. “Motherhood was a big part of me breaking free,” said the platinum artist. “Before I gave birth to Egypt, there was a certain energy of wanting to fix things. Women want to clean stuff up before the baby comes. I refused to be in any circumstance that would give negative energy to this. That was what pushed me over the edge. It was becoming a woman. I was a girl, and now I’m a woman.”

Girl on Fire is set for release on November 26th.

Check out photos below courtesy of Complex Mag.

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