Last week’s episode of Empire hadn’t even aired yet and tweets like: ‘Why is she going to be on the show?’ ‘Home wrecker!’ were already floating around social media.
Alicia Keys burst onto to the scene in 2001, giving the music scene a breath of fresh air. The 19-year-old pianist from New York stole our hearts with her poignant first single Fallin, complete with a video that spoke to us. Alicia, a ride-or-die chick, visited her recently locked-up boo while in jail, oiled his scalp in A Woman’s Worth and held him down when he got out.
She seduced Mos Def in the visuals for the lead single, You Don’t Know My Name, off her second album The Diary of Alicia Keys. Her third opus, As I Am, also did well, spawning the powerful love song No One. But shortly before the release of her fourth album Element of Freedom, Alicia was rocked with something she had never faced in her career before. Scandal. Suddenly, she was facing whispers of an extramarital affair with producer Swizz Beatz.
It all began after she reportedly threw a birthday party for him in 2008. But her spot was all the way blown up when Mashonda ( Swizz’s then wife) wrote an open letter to Keys, accusing her of helping to destroy her marriage. It also didn’t help that Mashonda later appeared in the first season of Love & Hip Hop, living in an apparently abandoned home. Alicia’s Superwoman image was tarnished and public opinion of her turned sour. She was no longer our home girl, who had encouraged us to stand by our man and hold each other down on her first three projects. Now, she was a home wrecker.
But after five years of marriage and two children, why is Alicia still facing this backlash?
It didn’t help that her career also suffered a blow when she released (arguably) the worst single of her career Girl On Fire. The song is out of her vocal range (try finding someone who actually likes the song). Although it went platinum and the album won R&B album of the year at the 2014 Grammys, it was also her lowest selling album.
Still, we can’t help but ask why Alicia remains under such intense scrutiny when her peers do not.
Around the same time as Alicia’s career woes, Fantasia Barrino faced a similar backlash. The public scrutiny took a toll on Fantasia and she attempted suicide in 2010. But Fantasia has since been able to reclaim the audience that also branded her as a home wrecker several years.
Gabrielle Union was in the same predicament when she began her relationship with her husband Dwyane Wade. She was even sued by his ex-wife Siohvaughn Wade. But with the help of Being Mary Jane, Gabrielle has been able to win us back.
Are we selectively choosing who we forgive? Why haven’t we forgiven Alicia?
Since 2003, her foundation Keep A Child Alive has raised over $25 million for HIV/AIDS for women in Africa and India. She has also lobbied for reduced prison sentences and ran the New York City marathon for charity.
But none of that seems to mean a damn thing because she allegedly broke up a “happy home.”
Are we mad because we don’t want someone ‘stealing’ our man? I think so. Because Alicia was and still remains a promoter of unity, harmony and community. How long are we going to dwell on her personal life? When do we draw the line between an entertainer’s private life and music?
To this day Alicia has never truly acknowledged the drama. She told Essence back in 2011, “We didn’t start seeing each other until months after they had separated,’ she said. ‘I was aware of all the false things that were being said about me, it definitely hurt.”
Furthermore, Swizz’s ex-wife Mashonda has seemingly forgiven Alicia and Swizz, as they’ve even taken family vacations together.
In order for her to really shake this scarlet letter, her next album has to be fire. Literally. She must re-connect with the producers (Krucial, Kanye West) that helped create her sound. She has to win us back through the music. It’s the only way.
Although, she didn’t commit a crime, people are harder on Alicia in the comments section of every article about her than they are on R. Kelly. The court of public opinion is swift and often unforgiving, but Alicia Keys is no criminal folks.
Let it go.