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Alicia Keys sizzles on tour, touts new business venture

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

It'd be easy to look at multi-Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys and think all her dreams came true.

Even though her music has made her an international success, she still has dreams that have gone unfulfilled. Her quest to reach those dreams while helping others is what led her to a new project.

"I realized it was time for me to reach out in new directions," she wrote on a blog in response to author Sheryl Sandberg's recently released book, "Lean In." "I had new ideas and dreams. I didn't want life to just happen to me -- I wanted to be an active participant."

So Keys put all of her interests -- from film to philanthropy and beyond -- under a new company she launched called AK Worldwide, which handles all of her projects, especially those outside of music. She also will launch a new website, iamasuperwoman.com, to inspire and unite women to help each other make their dreams a reality.

Onstage
Alicia Keys' Set the World on Fire Tour
» Where: Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW
» When: 7:30 Sunday
» Info: $49.50 to $128; 202-397-SEAT (7328); ticketmaster.com

In a very real way, that work is also an extension of her music, including her latest album, "Girl on Fire." The songs on the release range from anthems to intimate ballads she crafted in collaboration with other artists such as longtime song writing partner Krucial, Grammy Award winner Babyface, renowned writer and vocalist Jeff Bhasker, critically acclaimed artist Gary Clark Jr., up-and-comers Pop and Oak, and emerging U.K. artists Emeli Sande and Jamie xx.

The songs are led by Keys' powerful vocals and piano, but this time she brought in heavy drums, electric sounds, reggae and future soul to give the music a more urban feel. The music was inspired by the time she spent in London and Jamaica, as well as her home base of New York.

"My music allows me to speak freely," she said. "It doesn't have a beginning or ending because it's an integral part of my ongoing journey."

That journey, she said in her blog, has evolved into a way to inspire others through her music and work. She has already seen the impact her art can make on others.

"I saw this most clearly when I was backstage before one of my shows," Keys wrote. "A woman came up to me during a meet and greet and asked me if I was going to sing 'Unbreakable.' I teased her for a moment, saying, 'I don't know, maybe ... we'll have to see.' She responded very seriously. 'I hope so. I am five years in remission. I played that song every day during chemo.' Her words left me speechless. In fact, even today when I think about that exchange, I still get the chills as I reflect on her response. That moment alone embodies how I feel about music and all creative endeavors -- there's an incredibly beautiful power that when used appropriately, has the ability to inspire people."

What a gift for all of us.

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