Song of the Day: Alicia Keys, “You Don’t Know My Name” (2003)

Alicia Keys, “You Don’t Know My Name”
From the album The Diary of Alicia Keys (J)
Written by: Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Harold Lilly, J.R. Bailey, Mel Kent, Ken Williams

“You Don’t Know My Name” has to be one of the most Kierkegaardian romantic songs of all time. So much so, in fact, that it actually has a breathtaking moment in which Alicia Keys re-enacts a phone conversation that, to this day, I passionately maintain is the re-enactment of a “pretend” phone call – and that is precisely what makes it so real, vulnerable and beautiful.

The production is so dense that it seems to traverse the entire spectrum of the musical tradition – from the Franz Liszt-like tingling piano to the groove of ’70s soul, by way of that pioneering spirit of challenging the structure and boundaries of pop music in the way Prince often did, and beyond.

At a time when MTV was beginning its relentless descent into the dark ages, Alicia Keys was among the few artists keeping the standards of its music to a decent level. Even back then, in my preteens, I could understand that it was just different; in fact, I credit this song for introducing me to a whole universe of music.

“And you’ll never know how good it feels to have, all my affection / And you’ll never get a chance to experience, my lovin’ (oh) / ‘Cause my lovin’ feels like… ooh..

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