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Alicia Keys Steps Into a New Spotlight

“I really do,” she said. She explained that with previous projects, “I didn’t start out right, but kind of ended up right.” But this time, she said, “I didn’t want to go out and get too diluted and get too many partners. We have all the right partners, all the right minds. It’s the right mixture of experience and also newness that I think is important to continue to create a new world.”

One night in mid-July, I took the subway to Barclays Center to watch Keys do what she is best known for: perform. For 90 minutes she entertained a rapturous crowd of 11,894 — strikingly more diverse, and younger, than most theater audiences. Her sparkling Yamaha piano was in the center of the arena, on a rotating stage, with runways extending out so she could work the crowd.

Just before the concert, as she often does, she presided over what she calls a Soulcare Session, promoting her skin care line (“I call them offerings, not products — products is too transactional”), talking up empowerment (“The theme today is reminding ourselves to own our own power”), and posing for pictures with superfans who had paid a steep premium for up-close access (“You can talk to me about anything you want,” she said). Her staff sprayed the patrons with a “reviving aura mist” and invited them to select keys (get it?) with words of affirmation; attendees sat on embroidered pillows, black beanbags and purple cushions and asked Keys about her wardrobe, her writing process, her childhood. Some spoke about how her songs had helped them endure disease or emotional hardship.

Keys has long had an entrepreneurial streak — she started a babysitters club when she was 11 — and it is ever-expanding. “I’m really interested in business at this point,” she told me when I asked about what’s next.

She’s all-in on “Hell’s Kitchen,” of course. She intends to further build up Key SoulCare. And she’ll make more music.

“I feel like I’m in a place where I can express myself clearly,” she said. “I am clear about what I want, what I don’t want. Who I want to do it with, who I don’t want to. I’m unafraid to be very vocal and verbal about that, and I feel like I’m in a place where I can do anything, anything. And I haven’t even begun yet.”

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