2017 BET Awards

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Alicia Keys

Dear 'Diary'

AliciaThere's no blueprint to follow after selling 5.6 million copies of your debut album and winning five Grammy Awards -- all before the age of 21. But for Alicia Keys, whose cool, soulful 2001 landmark album, "Songs in A Minor," wowed the world, selling more than 10 million units globally, the next step was simple enough: Take time off.

Fortunately, no one had to lose too much sleep before Keys announced that she was ready to make her next album. "It only took me three or four weeks before I said, 'OK, that was fun. Now, I'm going to let all these things in my mind flow,'" she says. Those ideas resulted in the forward-stepping "The Diary of Alicia Keys," due this week. The artist maintains that the studio process was a pleasure, with the pressure turned down low.

"You can't put the same heart and soul into something that's so pressured and time-constrained," she explains. "It has to have the time to take whatever evolution it's going to take." Her approach seems to be paying off: first single "You Don't Know My Name" hit No. 8 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart within five weeks ago.

"I would never be able to create this kind of album if I didn't have the experiences that I had," she says. "I would have never made this album had I not lived these last two years of my life."