In a sometimes lighthearted telecast that saw Usher dancing in his jammies and John Legend sporting a ’70s afro, Alicia Keys played it simple and straight during her appearance on Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort.
Sitting alone at a white lacquered piano, the 15-time Grammy winner paid tribute to her beloved hometown with a stripped-down rendition of “Empire State of Mind.”
“That is my city,” she said during the instrumental intro to the song. “I love that it taught me everything I know. I love all the power and the passion. I love the people… there’s no place like it.”
.@aliciakeys captures the beauty of New York with help from friends like @iamqueenlatifah, @fatjoe, @diddy & more with her performance of Empire State of Mind #BETCovidRelief pic.twitter.com/tPFikqhJE0— BET (@BET) April 23, 2020
Intercut into the video of Keys at the piano were inspirational messages from a number of Big Apple-based celebrities, including Fat Joe, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Remy Ma and Papoose. But perhaps most poignant was a recorded clip of a nurse from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
“Whenever a person is isolated or discharged, we play ‘Empire State of Mind’ throughout on our P.A. system for our whole hospital to hear,” said Emily Coulty, an ICU nurse. “This song unites and inspires us to keep pushing.”
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Keys’ segment ended with a special message from Diddy. Wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the word “African,” he showed off twin tattoos on his arms that read “New York.”
“If we can make it there, we can make it anywhere,” the hip-hop mogul said to the camera. Then in his best Frank Sinatra impersonation, he capped off the video by belting out the words, “Neeeeew Yoooooooork” almost on key.
New York City has been especially hard hit by coronavirus, with 138,000 people diagnosed with the disease and nearly 10,000 confirmed deaths, according to NYC Health. A disproportionate number of those fatalities are African Americans
Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort is a partnership between BET and the United Way to raise money for local charities that provide food and emergency assistance to those in need. To donate, visit BET.com/donate or text BETGives to 51555.