With each passing year comes the realization albums which defined many of my teenage years are getting up there in age as well. Alicia Keys‘ The Diary Of Alicia Keys doesn’t turn 10 until next year, yet the lessons learned continue to stand as a testament of near flawless execution. When most people ask my favorite examples of sequencing on albums, two of my first answers are T.I.’s “Tha King/Motiviation/You Don’t Know Me/ASAP” from Urban Legend and Usher’s “Bad Girl-That’s What It’s Made For-Can U Handle It-Do It To Me” pregnancy-pact on Confessions.
Whether more impressive or not, Alicia managed to string together a duo of the 2000’s most significant R&B singles – “You Don’t Know My Name” and “If I Ain’t Got You” (back to back at that!) – with the Tony! Toni! Toné! featured “Diary” as the closer. What it resulted in was 15 minutes 98% of artists can only pray they recreate. “You Don’t…” told the story of mustering the courage to chase after a soulmate. “If I…” was the terrifying, impossible, yet somehow beautiful tale of living life without that special someone. Meanwhile, “Diary” was the culmination; the say-all, end-all, be-all of vows.
It was not only a gorgeous sequence of songs, but also a connection of emotions tying together not many R&B projects (let alone albums period) have been able to master since. As the days, months and years breeze past, The Diary Of Alicia Keys will only continue to grow in historical acceptance. And simply recognizing it as a successful album from one of the genre’s all-time greats isn’t enough. Keep in mind, finding a new torch bearer following the death of Aaliyah was a legitimate concern; an honor Beyonce and Alicia would largely be credited for taking on. Alicia took the world to school and somewhere in the middle of explaining her syllabus, she zoned in on three number powerful enough that would make you wish they lasted forever.
Alicia Keys – “You Don’t Know My Name”
Alicia Keys – “If I Ain’t Got You”
Alicia Keys Feat. Tony! Toni! Toné! – “Diary”