Here is what Holly had to say about her tracks…
Music was always a feature in our house, like most others. My mum had worked in a record shop in her twenties and had the most fabulous collection of vinyls so we were often surrounded by Stevie Wonder from her and Diana Ross and the Supremes from my Nana.
I sang in groups in my younger days; Choirs, summer camps, girlband wannabes with my friends from primary school. Singing soothes me. If I’m happy, I want to sing. If I’m sad, I sing loud. If I’m bored in my car, I sing.
My choices are all from my collection and all from the same artist, Alicia Keys. I’ve had a real musical and life journey with her. She’s evolved and moved into a new space with each album, as have I. Each of her records takes me to a different time in my life.
Some of her songs soothe me, some remind me of times I’d rather forget, some empower me.
My love for her started at the beginning of her career, with the ‘Songs in A Minor’ album. In 2001, I was a teen living in the countryside. Feeling really restricted in my life, I welcomed this album with an open heart. I didn’t know how to express myself, other than by crying and singing.
“Caged Bird” resonated so much with me then, and at various points through the year. The words, the melody, it all makes my heart beat hard. To sing those words always brings me out of the dark I’m in and reminds me there’s good to come. I just have to persevere.
“If I Ain’t Got You” from ‘Diary of Alicia Keys’ was the next song that hit my heartstrings. I may have only been around 17 but I knew my emotions were strong and ran deep. I dreamed of loving someone the way she loves the person in this song. You can feel it in her tone. Hear the aching in her voice.
It wouldn’t be for another 11 years that I would meet the love of my life. When I did meet that person, she loved Alicia Keys too. The song just fell into place in my life. What I’d been waiting for since I heard this song had happened. Now I feel even more strongly about this song than I did then.
The album, ‘As I Am’ really reveals a shift in Alicia and her move towards feminism, self-discovery and empowerment. Coincidentally, I was about to move out of university halls and into my first house share, discovering who I was as a young adult. My housemate loved Alicia just as much as I did. Cue many nights cooking or drinking cheap wine, belting out AK’s best hits.
One song really sticks out on this album for me. “Superwoman”. If you’re ever having a bad day. Wobbling in your self-belief? This song is for you. Turn it up loud, sing proud and put the vest with an S on your check. You’ll be able to conquer anything.
Though “Prelude to a Kiss” is only a tiny portion of this album, it gets me deep. It doesn’t need any explanation. The words, the tone, they say it all.
Alicia’s ‘Element of Freedom’ album was released in 2009. I’d left university and was supposedly a fully-fledged adult. I was coasting through life in a haze of parties and rum. Nothing about this time really sticks out for me and I feel the same about this album.
However, this year, I realised that “Love is my Disease” is basically me now that I’m in love.
‘Girl on Fire’ is another album where you can really feel Alicia’s passion for her life. The fire within her is burning and she’s growing in the most unapologetic, all-consuming way.
The title song is one that we can belt out in a good mood or a bad mood. Whichever way you’re feeling, this song can turn to it. This is my funeral song. Aside from the hilarious pun, I think this is the way many people will remember me. Loud, proud and singing!
Alicia’s latest album, ‘Here’ reveals the wholesome, new, calm version of her. She’s moved into a place past makeup. Past caring for people’s opinions. Ms Keys is continuing her humanitarian movements. Opening up the feminist movement. Creating the music she wants, rather than pandering to what a label needs to sell.
The one song that I can’t get enough of is “Holy War”.
“What if sex was holy, and war was obscene?”
Imagine, a world where people can love who they love, and no one is being bombed. Just imagine. I’m in a space in my life where I’m becoming much more politically active. I’ve had enough of being a slave to the minority. I am a fundamentalist and believe our society should work for everyone. There are people in the world, in my country even, who will see me burnt alive on a stake for being in love with another woman. Yet they don’t even flinch at the homeless refugees living on our streets, homes destroyed by bombs their taxes paid for. I can’t live with that.
I look forward to where the world will take us, Alicia and I. Musically, spiritually, emotionally. I hope she and I continue to evolve together and fight side by side through the years.