Since breaking out in 2001 with her debut single “Fallin’,” Alicia Keys has spent her career at Sony Music labels J (now defunct) and RCA, releasing six studio albums as well as live collections and remix compilations. Now, with her recording contract up imminently, Keys and her management are actively shopping for a prospective new deal that could be outside of Sony Music, sources tell Variety.
Keys’ manager Johnny Wright, who also represents Justin Timberlake and Incubus, is leading the charge and fielding offers which include a bid from Warner Bros. Records.
At RCA, chairman Peter Edge is Keys’ keyman, as it were, and is also keen on keeping her in the family. Worth noting: for much of Keys’ career, Edge and Tom Corson, who was recently named co-chairman and COO of WBR, were closely aligned. In 2011, then-Sony Music CEO Doug Morris named Edge and Corson chairman/CEO and president/COO, respectively, and the two functioned as a team, with the former focusing on A&R and the latter on operations.
How do you gauge Keys’ viability in light of a disappointing last studio effort, “Here,” released in November 2016? Some might view the singer and songwriter as a prestige artist, albeit one with over 18 million albums sold in the U.S. and three Billboard Hot 100 No.1s, but her performance at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala on Jan. 27 showed a talent that reaches far beyond torch singer. Indeed, in honoring Jay-Z, Keys demonstrated her hip-hop chops as she delivered a medley of “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” “Hard Knock Life,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Run This Town,” and her duet with the rapper, “New York State of Mind.”
“The price went up” after her Clive Davis performance, notes a source of her prospects for a new record deal.
Two nights before the Davis gala, Keys and her husband, Swizz Beatz, were honored by the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing at an event held at the Rainbow Room atop New York’s Rockefeller Center. “To all the creatives in the building, may we all continue to be inspired,” said Keys from the podium. “May we all continue to be brave, may we all continue to be unafraid of being our brightest best selves. … There is no limit to what we can do and how far we can go.”
Reps for Keys and RCA declined comment.