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Keys' most recent effort, Girl on Fire (2012), sold just over 750,000 copies in the US.The much-ballyhooed decline of music sales aside, the turmoil in Keys’ personal life seemed to partly impact the album’s relatively inauspicious showing.Styled in beaded cornrows, flowing scarves, and flared hip-huggers, she burst onto the music scene like a pop send-up of the ’70s jazz multi-instrumentalist Patrice Rushen.In a 2001 profile, Rolling Stone heaped on honorifics, hailing her as “The Next Queen of Soul,” and “neosoul’s newest princess, a black woman impacted equally by hip-hop, soul, Prince and classical.” Keys was a dual-threat: By playing the piano and singing, she claimed the prodigious space Lauryn Hill had recently abandoned while also appealing to the mainstream crowds that eluded her alt-R&B cadre D’Angelo and Erykah Badu.From Christina Aguilera (marriage scandal), to Usher (bitter child-custody battle); to Gwen Stefani (a public breakup with ex-hubby Gavin Rossdale); to Miley Cyrus (racial appropriation, lackluster twerking), the show has been a saving grace for several fading stars.(It’s worth noting that, in keeping with the strange way that The Voice’s rotating chairs double as a PR spin zone, the relationship between Stefani and her Voice co-star Blake Shelton has helped both stars reclaim their public narratives.) For Keys, who had previously been a mentor on the show, the promotion seems to come at the perfect time, while she’s reinventing herself and promoting both an as-yet untitled new album and “Back to Life,” her contribution to the soundtrack of the upcoming film Queen of Katwe.She gave a rousing rendition, but as she belted out “I am a superwoman / Yes I am,” the sentiment felt strangely unconvincing, given the years of public controversy that undermined her character.
Mashonda wrote that Keys “assisted in destroying a family” in a 2009 open letter to Keys that she published on Twitter.
In May 2016, she unveiled a series of fresh-faced photos on Instagram and published an essay in Lenny, Lena Dunham’s newsletter, called “Time to Uncover.” In it, she detailed her growing discomfort with conventional beauty standards, how they've induced anxiety in her and other women, and the ways in which misunderstandings of her were rooted in people's perception of her physical presentation.
“Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of.
Now the singer is attempting to disengage from that sordid drama by reorienting her public image.
Tonight, she’ll make her first appearance as a judge on NBC’s The Voice, a redeeming vehicle for once-embattled pop stars.
The intense tabloid attention quickly eroded Keys’ privacy — and the good-girl image she’d enjoyed.