Alicia Keys: Beautiful Lady and Horrible Live Singer

Alicia Keys(Photo Source: Hip Hop Weekly)

Alicia Keys is a beautiful lady and has enjoyed a successful career.  Unfortunately, when she has to sing live, you wouldn’t think she’s an accomplished singer.  Her success as a vocalist emerges from her ability to sing much better in the studio.  Many recording artists cannot sing live and Alicia Keys is a representative example.  If it were not for her beauty and the reputation she’s built from her studio album sells, she would be one of those artists who quickly fade away.

Although her gorgeous face and breathtaking body are contributing factors in her enduring success, her success in more recent years has resulted from her ability to understand how to create songs that connect to larger phenomena than herself.  Her song, “Girl on Fire,” shrewdly connects with numerous women.  One of the most important ways it resonates with many women is it’s a song they can use and sing to express their self-confidence and celebrate their accomplishments, physical appearance, independence, and/or any other thing that gives them joy.  In her collaboration with Jay-Z, “Empire State of Mind,” she not only forms a bond with New Yorkers by singing a song that can be viewed as an anthem for New York, but also connects  with millions of Americans who love New York, especially in a post-9/11 America.

Those responsible for managing and marketing her must advise her to be more selective about the live events she elects to sing at.  If Keys is going to sing at live events, she needs to avoid high notes.  Her voice cracks entirely too much when she’s singing live (especially when attempting high notes).  In the studio, she has opportunities to correct errors she often makes when she’s singing live—without anyone ever knowing she made any errors.

Alicia Keys will not continue to be successful if she keeps having horrible vocal performances at prominent events like the Super Bowl and The Grammy Awards.

Keys shouldn’t allow her ego to fool her into believing she’s having amazing live vocal performances—when they’re really atrocious.  Whether she knows it or not, she’s beginning to develop the wrong reputation: “she’s not a good singer” or “she cannot sing at all,” which are frequent statements made by numerous individuals on Facebook and Twitter in response to her live performances.

In “Posing as a Great Singer: Trey Songz’s Intriguing Success,” I wrote about the horrendous live vocal performances of Trey Songz.  His managers and marketers, however, are more discerning about how many live performances he does and the type of events he performs at.  During live performances, they sell his physical appearance more than his vocals.  Keys would be better served by highlighting her physical appearance more than her vocals when performing live.

Are you a fan of Alicia Keys?  Do you think she’s a good live singer?  Why or why not?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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16 comments

      1. man she ain’t that bad her voice was sick at the 2002 grammys yeah it was great before shoulda mentioned that in the article 😦

  1. I’ve said this many times. I will give her credit though. She’s a good song writer. That’s somewhat a list art form in music today. But she gets by a lot on her “exotic biracial beauty”. Singer India Arie is just as good a song writer but doesn’t seem to get as much push from the media. But I’ve also heard other people say Alicia is not that great live in concert. She doesn’t have the pipes of Patti Labelle,Anita Baker or Whitney Houston. Not even close!

    1. You are right — the media is more drawn to her beauty. India can sing far better than her, but her dark skin is not attractive to the media. She is certainly not even close to being Whitney, Patti, and Anita. She is a very good songwriter and she does deserve much credit for that. Thanks very much for reading and your response.

      1. That’s true. I also think its wrong how they did India in the Grammy’s a few years ago. She and Alicia were both up for five or six Grammy’s. Alicia took them all and India was totally shut out! It was insane! They did her wrong.

        1. Yes, that was completely wrong. They should have given her at least one. You’ve inspired an article I’m going to write on India. She is certainly an amazing natural talent. She has never had a below average or average live performance. India is either going to give you a good or great live performance.

  2. I’ve been saying she is on the decline, vocally for quite sometime now. That last album was a certified snooze fest. I think she lost her way, she used to be more soulful. Now she is just screaming in the mic, and that isn’t singing. Like you stated, I think her beauty allows her to receive a pass from criticism, but that is slowly evaporating.

    1. You are right — the pass her beauty has been giving her is slowly fading. I’m actually rooting for her to improve. Right now, she simply cannot sing live. One of my Twitter followers responded to my article by saying that she needs to get more vocal training like Mary J. did and I agree with her very much. The screaming she’s currently doing is damaging her voice and is not pleasing to the ear. She still sexy, though. LOL!

  3. Alicia Keys is amazing!! Yes, she is extremely beautiful, but she is also an amazing singer who is highly accomplished in music, with her song writing, an accomplished pianist, an accomplished violinist, plays the guitar AND the drums! Most musicians don’t sound the same live as they do on the radio! The acoustics in a recording studio are completely different than a live performance, obviously! That hardly means she flat out can’t sing! I strongly disagree!

    1. Since the time I penned this article, she has improved her singing. In fact, many other aspects of her life have ameliorated as well. She’s highly accomplished, so I would assert that she is qualified to be a judge on The Voice.

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