Today (June 19) was definitely the perfect way to wrap up our Juneteenth celebration. Alicia Keys and John Legend gave us epic key playing and note hitting in their head-to-head Verzuz battle, as each R&B icon performed their legendary discography on their pink and black pianos on respective sides of the room. The virtual viewers included Michelle Obama, Fat Joe, Swizz Beatz, Ella Mai, Quest Love Lala Anthony, Johnta Austin, Dwyane Wade, and DJ D-Nice, the official host of the Juneteenth “Verzuz” after party.
After the release of Legend’s new album, Bigger Love, and Keys’ “More Myself: A Journey” book release, the two gracefully demonstrated their talents continue to be endless in the IG Live showdown. Check out the biggest takeaways from the key-to-key battle below:
1. Their “Redemption Song” Intro:
Despite being nearly twenty minutes late, Legend and Keys came in with positive energy, and a melodic rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” The two took their places on their respective pianos, as they split the lyrics equally and added their beautiful R&B twists to the classic to create a modern-day ode to Juneteenth.
2. Alicia’s Isolation Swag and Hair:
Keys brought a new definition to cozy chic as she hopped up to dance along to Baby Cham’s “Ghetto Story,” on which she was featured. Her long ponytail with a braided pattern on the right side, crop graphic hoodie and khaki jumpsuit styled into pants were all tied together with the open-toed heels. She laughed with John as she revealed this is the first time either of them have worn real clothes and shoes since the start of social isolation.
3. “Everything Is Everything” Collab Reveal:
“No, that wasn’t you!” Keys turned to Legend after he revealed his piano participation in Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything.” He said that he was only 18 or 19 years old at the time when he became the keys behind this legendary tune. Did you also know that he co-wrote Estelle’s “American Boy”? Neither did we.
4. Teddy Riley versus Tony Baker:
This was a Verzuz battle for Keys and Legend. But, Teddy Riley and comedian Tony Baker seemed to step into the ring themselves. The comic made a comment about Riley’s presence possibly making the WiFi cut out before the producer took to the comments section to jokingly fire a few shots back.
5. Taking It Back To The Firsts:
Legend’s “Used To Love U” and Keys’ collaboration with Eve, “Gangsta Lovin’,” took it back to the very beginning. Legend reminisced on first performing his track in front of Diddy and JAY-Z for the first time, while Keys recounted shooting the Eve collaboration in a train station. “Remember when we used to go outside?” she joked.
6. “For The Boos Out There”:
“The day I knew I was famous,” Legend said as he began to play the opening notes to “Ordinary People.” Prior to that, Keys took us back to her iconic 2004 “My Boo” collaboration with Usher. “This is our music, this is our experience, this is our joy,” Jermaine Dupri expressed in the comments, as Legend assured that this time, we’ll take it slow. “I was saving some of my love songs, but that’s okay,” Keys added before singing one of her personal favorites, her piano rendition of “Empire State of Mind.” Legend couldn’t help but to testify with a shout and round of applause.
7. “If I Ain’t Got You” Dedication To Unity:
“We need each other more than ever right now,” Keys introduced her classic before Tamar Braxton, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union and Jurnee Smollett-Bell sounded off in the comments about “If I Ain’t Got You” being their favorite song of hers. “I wish my girl could sing. I hate you Swizz,” comedian Michael Blackson joked.
8. Let’s Pick It Up:
After Legend’s soulful rendition of “This Time,” Keys suggested it was time to pick up the tempo. So, she offered her “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart” as an alternative. The audience was not mad at it, as they were dropping fire emojis. Legend followed up with a two-step and his famous Think Like A Man song, as he gave a shout out to Michael Ealy before playing “Tonight (Best You Ever Had).” “This song will forever be associated with Michael Ealy making love,” he said before Keys started laughing.
9. An Ode To Juneteenth:
Legend was up next as he introduced this next project with The Roots, which was inspired by Obama’s move into the White House in 2010. Gabrielle Union, Natalie Nunn, and Timbaland dropped Black fists, hearts and praying hands while he played “Wake Up Everybody” featuring Melanie Fiona. Not before long, everyone was dropping “Happy Juneteenth” into the comments. As Legend closed out the session with information about the history of the holiday, he played his and Common’s Selma collaboration, “Glory.” Cue the green, black and red heart emojis interchangeably.
10. For The Ladies:
For “when you need to remember how incredible you are,” said Keys as she played “Superwoman.” She also made it a point to stand up for her women viewers by playing hits including “Woman’s Worth” and “Girl On Fire.”
11. A “Magnificent” Toast:
Keys and Legend had a toast to Legend’s feature on Rick Ross’ “Magnificent” as Keys pulled out a cart with a chilled bottle of Ciroc. “Happy Juneteenth,” she said, as they clanked their glasses and joined one another in a good ole fashioned two-step.
12. Keep It Kanye:
After Legend played Kanye West’s verse of his penned “American Boy,” Keys did not hesitate to play “You Don’t Know My Name” and “Unbreakable,” which were both co-written by Ye. As Legend provided ad-lib vocals in the background, Keys performed the monologue where she called up Michael and the comments went absolutely crazy. “Orange Is The New Black” actress Ruby Ruse even admitted that was her favorite part of the entire song.
13. Give Me The Green Light:
Obviously the audience went crazy when John Legend played “Green Light” featuring Andre 3000. Green hearts, circles and traffic light emojis were dropped into the comments, as Shanti Das and Busta Rhymes joined in on the fun.
14. Pure Soul At Its Finest:
Keys’ “Fallin’” and Legend’s “All Of Me” were the most soulful performances of the entire night, and you can truly tell this was when both R&B icons gave it their all. “I want to marry you again,” Swizz Beatz said the comments and Legend joined into the harmonies for her iconic bridge. Fire emoji after piano emoji kept coming and coming throughout the entire song.
15. Rest In Peace, Nip:
It would be remiss of Legend if he didn’t play his Grammy award-winning collaboration with DJ Khaled and the late Nipsey Hussle, “Higher.” “Rest in peace, Nipsey Hussle,” he said, as he raised his hand out of respect for the fallen rapper and philanthropist. Khaled stepped in the chat to drop a few checkered flags and blue hearts, too.
16. A Tearful Closing:
Keys used her emotional new release “Perfect Way To Die” to address police brutality and racial injustice. As silence fell upon the room, Legend had to change the course of his next song selection and chose a track about resilience, “Never Break,” from his new album. The comments filled with the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
17. A True Collaboration of R&B Greatness:
Throughout the entire Verzuz, Legend and Keys playfully inserted ad-libs into one another’s performances — from Keys’ “Diary” to Legend’s “Glory.” They always added raw piano outros to their songs, and showing off that they weren’t artists to mess with. We never doubted.