Alicia Keys Recalls Learning of Kobe Bryant’s Death Hours Before Hosting The 2020 Grammys

Alicia Keys recalled the moment she learned Kobe Bryant had passed away and shared what went into planning her moving tribute to the late athlete at the 2020 Grammys.

By emily belfiore Jan 29, 2020 12:02 PMTags
Alicia Keys, Kobe Bryant Michael Rozman/Warner Bros., Aurora Rose/Shutterstock

The show must go on.

During Wednesday's episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Alicia Keys opened about the moment she found out that Kobe Bryant had passed away on Sunday. Just hours before she stepped on stage at The Staples Center to host the 2020 Grammys, the "Underdog" singer explained how her moving tribute to the late athlete came together so quickly. 

"Well, I mean, we were all freaking out because it's obviously—hearing the news about Kobe and his daughter [Gianna Bryant, 13] was so tragic," she told host Ellen DeGeneres. "And none of us can still believe it right now, to this day."

"So, I think that it was definitely a crazy feeling because, literally minutes before, we were going to do something else," Alicia continued. "And we had to really figure out how can we properly honor him in his house on this night [with] everybody who adores him and loves him so much and has been inspired by him and felt so devastated in that moment. We couldn't—you know, we had to properly do that."

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As she addressed the grieving Grammys crowd, Alicia took a moment to honor Kobe with a few words. "Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, they're in our hearts, they're in our prayers," she said at the award show. "They're in this building, and I would like to ask everybody to take a moment and just hold them inside of you, hold them inside of you, and share our strength and our support with their families."

But in order to find the strength to lead the audience and viewers in such an emotional tribute, the Grammy-winning artist said that she had to process her own emotions first. Wanting to pay honor the L.A. Lakers legend in the right way with the right song, she and Boyz II Men joined forces to perform a moving a capella rendition of their song "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."

"I was literally backstage and I put on my meditation music," Alicia recalled. "I, like, was just thinking and I called some of my closest people that helped me, you know, really find the truth in that moment and…it just so happened that Boyz II Men was there already that night and we wanted to do something special [and] create something that felt like it was the right thing."

"And we pulled it together and it was just beautiful. It was like that magic that happens when it's necessary," she continued. "it was so much but I was very honored to share that moment all of us. With the entire world. That we together could go through something that hurt so bad together and I feel really honored to have been able to be there with you in that time."

After receiving praise from Ellen for her thoughtful and pertinent tribute, the duo discussed Alicia's upcoming album Alicia, which the "Girl on Fire" singer admitted is her most personal album to date.

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"Truly, I've realized that I've never been more fully myself," she shared. "And I've never been fully Alicia than I am in this moment and I'm really enjoying getting to know myself in a way that I haven't maybe been brave enough before, or haven't just really understood the nuances of what makes us all who we are."

She added, "So, this music really reflects all of me and I feel like this is the first time that I can really call this album Alicia because I'm finally so much closer to who I am."

Alicia drops on March 20.