When the much-talked-about triple-threat tour featuring Missy Elliott, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys gets under way, it won't be the first time Alicia Keys and Miss B have collaborated for a stage performance.
Unbeknownst to most, the two platinum queens are mic buddies from back in the day.
"A lot of people don't know that they both were on Columbia Records at the same time when they were shorties," Keys' manager Jeff Robinson said on Tuesday. "They've always maintained a friendship since then. You used to see little Alicia walking around with little Destiny's Child. The [company] used to take us on retreats, all the groups got to know each other. They would perform and whatever. They've been on the stage together, but this is the first time the public gets to see it. It's kinda like a reuniting of youngsters" (see "Beyonce, Alicia Keys And Missy Elliott Plan Spring Tour").
Robinson said the tour will bring the same type of excitement as when Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier. And while Beyoncé and Missy are known for their Broadway-like stage productions, Keys has been known to win over audiences simply by sitting at the piano and singing. Robinson said there will be changes in Keys' stage show, but she won't deviate too far from her roots.
"You gonna be surprised with the things you see," he said. "We gonna keep things classy and about the music. We don't believe in things like pyro and a lot of smoke and mirrors. It should be all about your music and the songs."
One record that should go over well with the crowd is her next single. After noting the reactions from crowds during her handful of club dates last year (see "Alicia Keys Shows Her B-Girl Side At New York Show"), Keys and Robinson pondered going with "The Diary," "Karma" or "Heartburn," but decided on "If I Ain't Got You." She filmed the clip for the record last month in New York, with Method Man.
"We always shied away from doing the guest-star thing, but Alicia was such a big fan of the Meth and Mary [J. Blige] video ['I'll Be There for You/ You're All I Need to Get By']. We wanted to bring a little bit of that element into it."
Diane Martel, who directed the Meth and Mary J. classic, also helmed Keys' new video.
"She's crying, it will be a tearjerker," Robinson said of the video. "People are going to be surprised, it's a lot of acting going on. Usually when we do a video, Alicia and I write all the videos, we try to keep it real life rather than all that fluffy stuff. Stuff people can identify with, whether it be a male or female. It's kind of like a prequel to 'Fallin',' before she got on that bus to see her man in prison. That's something that, unfortunately, a lot of women can identify with also."
Like many women in relationships, Keys has to deal with a stubborn man in the video. Although she and the Ticallion Stallion are very much in love in "If I Ain't Got You," the couple can't see eye to eye.
"I think you see a more emotional side," Robinson continued. "I think you'll see in this video she can really act. You'll see a more tender side, you'll see that in Method also. He's kinda tender, he loves his girl and all he understands is the streets. He doesn't understand that his girl doesn't want anything from the streets. She just wants him. He thinks he can make her happy by doing street stuff and making street money and buying her material things. She doesn't want none of that, all she wants is him and he can't get it through his head."