As she crowns the Billboard 200, the girl on fire discusses healing in her hometown, bringing R&B to pop radio and her respect for songwriting.
Alicia Keys collects her fifth Billboard 200 No. 1 this week, as "Girl on Fire" launches atop the list. The set's title cut, meanwhile, soars 5-2 on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and 21-11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Billboard chatted with Keys following her performance at an exclusive show at the iHeartRadio Theater, presented by P.C. Richard & Son, in New York City on Nov. 27. (The night before, the Empire State Building was lit up in a special ceremony in unison to her music).
Among Keys' musings:
On, as a native New Yorker, playing the 12.12.12. Concert for Sandy Relief: "I love my city and I know we've been going through a lot. But, I know that we're going to get through it."
On her favorite song on the new album: "It's really hard to pick, but one of my favorites is 'Not Even the King.' It's just so soft, but so powerful."
On achieving pop radio success (seven Pop Songs top 10s, including the No. 1s "Fallin'" and "No One") while not ceding her R&B roots: "It's a really cool thing to bring R&B to wherever I go. It's really (owing), I think, to the fact that a great song is a great song; it really doesn't matter the bedding behind it. What matters is something that people can relate to, in a beautiful melody. But, I'm really proud of that, to be able to hold true to my foundation and still grow in every way that I can."