Alicia Keys Breaks Down the Meaning of ‘No One’

At 41, Alicia Keys has accomplished almost everything. She is an award-winning artist, critically acclaimed actor, producer, a classically trained pianist, mother of two, and a loving wife to rapper-producer Swizz Beatz.

Keys started her musical career at 15 after signing to Columbia Records. Since then, she has released several hit songs with deeper meanings. The singer broke down the meaning of her hit song “No One” in an interview. Here’s what she said.

Alicia Keys smiling
Alicia Keys | Rich Fury/Getty Images

‘No One’ fell on Alicia Keys’ lap

Keys sat down with Wired for its Web’s Most Searched Questions segment in 2020. When asked what her song “No One” was about, the singer said,

“‘No One’ is just about the real thing, and that no matter what, no one is gonna get in the way of the real thing. They can talk about you; they can think what they wanna think about you. But the truth is when something is real, when love is real, no one can get in the way.”

In 2012, Keys spoke to Entertainment Weekly to break down the meaning of some of her most loved songs. She told the outlet that they’d decided to go with another piece for the lead single when they were making her third studio album, As I Am. However, Keys convinced her team to go with “No One.”

Keys said, “‘No One’ was like straight up from God. It just came down from the heavens and fell into my lap. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.”

“It was undeniable. You just know it, I love it with all my heart and every single time I sing it, it sets me free all over again,” she continued. Keys further explained the meaning in another interview, saying,

“‘No One’ is really talking about the way that in relationships, the way that so many things are around you all the time to try and distract out. And even though people may talk and say whatever they may want to say, but then no one can get in the way of this.”

‘No One’ spent five weeks at the top

Keys worked with her longtime friend and collaborator Kerry Brothers Jr. to write and produce the song, with additional writing and producing help from DJ Dirty Harry. The song was officially released on September 10, 2007, as the lead single for Keys’ third album, As I Am.

Upon its release, “No One” reached the top of the US Billboard Hot 100, staying at number one for five consecutive weeks. The song also topped in Croatia, Switzerland, and Hungary and made it to the top 10 in 18 more countries.

The single was the most listened to song on US radio in 2008, with 3.08 million listeners. “No One” received a 7x platinum certification in the US and sold 5.6 million copies worldwide. The song also saw Keys and Brothers take home Grammys at the 50th Grammy Awards, with Keys winning Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and another one with Brothers for Best R&B Song.

‘No One’s music video also topped charts

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The music video for “No One” consists of four settings. In the first setting, Keys lies on a chair in an empty room before proceeding to the second setting, a room full of musical instruments. The third setting features the singer singing alone while playing the piano on a rainy street before several people surround her.

The last setting sees Keys in a nightclub. The video closes with Keys resting on the chair from the first setting. The video was directed by Justin Francis and premiered on various shows, including 106 and Park, Total Request Live, and VH’s VSpot Top 20 Countdown, eventually peaking at number one in the shows.