If I Ain't Got You

Album: The Diary Of Alicia Keys (2003)
Charted: 18 4

Songfacts®:

  • 22-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash in The Bahamas on August 25, 2001. The tragedy inspired this tune; Keys later recalled: "The song idea came together right after Aaliyah passed away. It was such a sad time and no one wanted to believe it. It just made everything crystal clear to me - what matters, and what doesn't."
  • Performers on American Idol, The Voice and other such TV music talent shows have covered the song on countless occasions. Keys reflected to Entertainment Weekly in 2012: ''I have heard a lot of people cover this song. I think that's actually the biggest compliment for a writer and for an artist, but especially for a writer. It showcases a big range and a powerful emotion, and I never think about it until it's time to be on tour, and then I'm like, 'S---! What did I do?' [Laughs] You gotta make it through two hours, and I'm not lip-synching, so it's serious.''
  • Keys won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for this song at the 2005 Grammy Awards.
  • This song inspired UK athlete Kelly Holmes to triumph in the 2004 Olympic Women's 800 and 1500 metres. She explained: "There are lyrics about diamonds and things meaning everything to people, but that song is about my gold medal because if I haven't got that, everything else means nothing."
  • Alicia Keys wrote the song on a plane right after she'd heard the news of Aaliyah's passing. She recalled in an online-exclusive clip from The Voice: "I think being on a plane and knowing she passed away after a plane crash, there was just this sentiment of being present in the moment and really nothing else mattering but those that you love. I think that feeling was really present in my life at that time and really right in my face."

    Keys came up with the lyrics and music straight away, but landing on a finished version took her a lot longer. "I wrote it really quickly, but in order to produce it the way that you hear it, it took forever," she said. "Nothing would come out right. Every version that I did, every arrangement that I did was just wrong. It was such a labor of love."
  • When Christina Aguilera was working on her Stripped album, she asked Alicia Keys to write something for her. Keys almost offered Aguilera "If I Ain't Got You" before deciding to keep it for herself. She ended up giving her the track "Impossible."
  • The Diane Martel-directed video features a cameo by Wu-Tang Clan rapper and actor Method Man as Keys' on-screen boyfriend.

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