Still, she calls the Egypt trip a "pilgrimage," marking a true turning point in her outlook. "Being able to take myself out of my everyday environment, and kind of thrust myself into a brand-new world, to be totally alone, which I was, and to kind of shut off the world and shut out the world for a long period of time," she says, "it was like a self-discovery." Her management and label have felt this change the most, forced now to deal with her exerting greater control over her time.
"I came back and I was just freer. And I was more ready to do everything and anything," Keys says. "I just took all these restrictions off myself and all of these kind of rules and regulations and ways that I was used to creating, and all this crap, and threw them out the window. And I just allowed myself to be vulnerable and free and open, and it created [on As I Am] some of the best music I've ever created yet."
Alicia Keys can breathe again.
With Ne-Yo. Sunday, May 25. American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $36.75 to $97.25, www.ticketmaster.com