Michelle Obama pays tribute to Alicia Keys at 2021 Billboard Music Awards

"I remember what it felt like to hear the song 'Fallin'' for the first time," said Obama. "It was edgy and soulful, graceful yet raw."

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to multi-platinum singer and activist Alicia Keys, who was honored at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards for the 20th anniversary of her debut album, Songs in A Minor.

The hit LP was released when Keys was only 20 years old on June 5, 2001. The album garnered five Grammy Awards.

Alicia Keys (left) and former First Lady Michelle Obama (right) share a moment onstage at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019 in Los Angeles. Obama paid tribute to Keys at last night’s Billboard Music Awards. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

In a video tribute, Obama recalled initially hearing Keys’ first single, “Fallin’.”

“I remember what it felt like to hear the song ‘Fallin’’ for the first time. It was edgy and soulful, graceful yet raw,” said Obama. “This young singer was taking us to church and to the symphony and to a candlelight dinner and couples therapy and everywhere else all in a little more than three minutes. I knew right then and there that this wouldn’t be the last we’d hear from Alicia Keys, and in the years since, she’s amazed us again and again in so many ways.”

Obama, 57, praised the 40-year-old Keys as an artist, advocate and activist, saying that she is “a leader on social justice, a wife, a mentor, a mother. But most of all, she is herself, always thoughtful, always hopeful, always Alicia. And in bearing her true self, she calls us all to be the same in our own lives and for each other.”

In introducing the multiple award-winner, who then performed a medley of her songs, Obama said Keys inspires her and former First Daughters Malia and Sasha Obama.

Keys won Female Artist of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards the year her debut album was released and again in 2004. In 2020, she was also named the number-one Recording Industry Association of America-certified female R&B artist of the millennium, with over 65 million albums sold.

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