Alicia Keys debuts new songs for NYU students

Alicia Keys goes back to school for an intimate performance
Alicia Keys goes back to school for an intimate performance (Image credit: CHIP EAST/Reuters/Corbis)

Alicia Keys's fourth studio album, The Element Of Freedom, is due out 14 December, and the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter debuted some of her new songs in an unlikely setting: New York University.

Backed by a four-piece band and two-back-up singers, Keys performed the first single off her upcoming album, Doesn't Mean Anything (see video below), along with You Don't Know My Name, Falling, parts of Jay-Z's Empire State Of Mind (on which she is featured) and No One.

At the start of the evening, Keys participated in an interview segment, during which she shared her thoughts and revelations while recording her new album. "When I first started going to the studio, it was like I didn't know what to do," she said. "All I knew was doing it till the point of exhaustion - submersing myself till the point of possibly drowning."

Learning to "be free"

"You are shinning so bright and I feel you. There's nothing that's going to stop you from doing what you want" Alicia Keys, offering words of encouragement to aspiring songwriters

Keys said that things began to turn around when she allowed herself "to be free. With this album I found such a balance and I took things in that inspire me, which can come from anywhere. It just helped me enjoy the process first and foremost."

Despite her massive success, Keys revealed that one of her most difficult moments professionally came just recently: "I felt my lowest during my last record. I started to understand that I was dealing with people who I thought were my friends but in reality had other intentions," she said.

"So, things had to change. Sometimes you have to get rid of people in your life that don't work with you. You have to stay in your path and when people are pulling you down, you have to cut ties."

Words of encouragement

In her closing remarks, Keys gave the crowd - comprised mostly of aspiring songwriters - words of encouragement. "You are shinning so bright and I feel you," she said. "There's nothing that's going to stop you from doing what you want. You are a powerful human being with endless possibilities and everyday is a new day to get closer to where you want to go."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.