It’s one of Alicia Keys’ most well-known and beloved hits, but it turns out that “If I Ain’t Got You” almost went to a completely different singer.
The songwriter recalled the incident while explaining how she ended up penning “Impossible” for Aguilera’s album, Stripped.
“There’s a really funny, amazing story around this song,” Keys began.
“I think we were on the same label at the time. She reached out and was like, ‘Would you write something for me?’ And then it came through so many emails. What a voice! I know I could write something fire for her. So time passed and I hadn’t written the song yet. And [the label] was like, ‘Do you have anything for Christina?’ I remember I had just recently written ‘If I Ain’t Got You.'”
Keys suggested that her A&R team could play “If I Ain’t Got You” for Aguilera, but the team weren’t big fans of the idea. “Are you f***ing crazy? We’re not giving her that song. Are you out your mind?’” they replied.
“I was like, ‘Why not? I’ll write a hundred more of those, it’s fine. I think she should hear it,” Keys continued. “I don’t really think it’s a big deal.’ But I thought, ‘Fine, I’ll go write another song.’ So I went off and wrote ‘Impossible’. I went to cut it with her and I love how she sounded on it. It was such a cool vibe for us to be able to work together during those times. But I will never forget that I would have given away.”
Agreeing that giving “If I Ain’t Got You” to Aguilera may have changed the course of both of their careers, the Grammy-winner added: “Isn’t that crazy? So that’s a good story.”