Which is why when she takes the stage on September 6 for the 2012 Video Music Awards, Keys has promised to make the fifth time count by debuting a brand-new track off her upcoming album.
Unlike 1D, Keys’ road to her latest VMA appearance was not the capper to a rocket-ride to instant fame, but a slow, award-soaked climb to the upper echelons of the R&B kingdom that featured a quick detour to marriage and motherhood two years ago.
From her recorded debut on the 1997 soundtrack to “Men in Black” through her smash 2001 major label bow, Songs in A Minor and hit albums The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), As I Am (2007) and The Element of Freedom, Keys has remained one of the most reliable, thrilling R&B singers of the modern era.
Her life began to change in major ways following the release of Freedom. In addition to spawning a string of hit singles, including the Beyoncé duet “Put It In a Love Song,” “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down” and “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready),” five months after its release, Keys announced that she was engaged to producer/frequent collaborator Swizz Beatz and that they were expecting their first child together.
The couple married in July 2010 on the island of Corsica and in October of that year Keys gave birth to son Egypt Daoud Ibarr Dean. After taking some time off, she began work on her upcoming album, Girl on Fire, which she has promised will show a very different side of her personality.
You can tell she’s in a new frame of mind from the cover of the album, on which she’s wearing a sleek black Tom Ford dress and come-hither look that is modest compared to an earlier promo photo in which she modeled a black dress with sheer sides that left little to the imagination.
Keys has had a long history with the VMAs. She made her VMA debut back in 2001, when she won her first Moonman for Best New Artist in a Video and wowed the crowd with her performance of her hit song, “Fallin’.” In 2004, Keys took the stage yet again, but this time had some assistance from Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder for a performance medley of “If I Ain’t Got You” and “Higher Ground.”
Most recently Keys performed in 2009, as she and Jay-Z closed out the New York City show with a rousing rendition of their hit collaboration, “Empire State of Mind”. In 2010, the song won Keys her fourth Moonman — she has a total of 12 nominations — for Best Cinematography.
“Debuting a new song at the VMAs is definitely special. I debuted ‘No One’ at the VMAs — it was the first time anyone in the world heard ‘No One,’ Keys told MTV News. “It’s the perfect setting. It’s the right energy. It’s the right vibe. People are so excited about the night of music and hearing different styles that it just goes over really well. I can’t wait!”
The second reveal will be even more special for her, Keys said, because she’s feeling more excited and confident than ever about sharing new music with her fans and the VMA audience.
“I’m in my space and I feel more confident than ever to really just have a crazy, fun time,” Keys said of performing at the VMAs. “It’s so exciting to bring people into my world and where I’ve been and what I’ve been working on. And there’s no better place in the whole wide world than the VMAs to do that, so it’s gonna be crazy!”
The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards will air live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 6, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Head to VMA.MTV.com now through August 24 to vote for your favorites, or text BNA to 22444 (message and data rates may apply) to vote for Best New Artist all the way through the show!