Oprah: I feel the same way. I've heard you say that music and television have become semipornographic.
Alicia: Absolutely. We're one step away from triple-X-rated.
Oprah: Years ago I saw my niece sitting mesmerized in front of the TV, watching a music video with the lyrics "Back that thing up." These women were shaking their behinds. If you live in a world where that's the behavior you see, it becomes your reality—and that's how you learn to represent yourself.
Alicia: That's it. When I'm walking down the street, I see these 12-year-olds who look 17. Their skirts are tiny, and their shorts are as short as can be. Whoa.
Oprah: How did you escape that world?
Alicia: My neighborhood was porno hell—prostitutes everywhere. I saw women on street corners in the dead cold of December. I've seen the hard lives they live. I remember thinking, "I don't care how difficult it gets, I will never do that."
Oprah: As a girl, when did you know that the music was in you and you were in the music?
Alicia: First I was working on classical music that didn't move me at all. I hated it. So I decided to discover the kinds of classical music that did move me—like Chopin, Satie, Beethoven, and certain Mozart songs. Mozart would play a counterpart with his left hand while using his right to mock it. It was blue, dark, shadowy—and it made me feel something. That's when I realized music was inside me.
Oprah: When I listen to Chopin, I just feel a little dizzy. I heard that so many people wanted to sing your song "Fallin'" that it was banned from American Idol.
Alicia: It was banned on Pop Idol shows all over the world. I've heard that the producers said, "You're ruining the song." I couldn't believe it.
Oprah: I heard that Simon Cowell said it's the most ruined song ever. Doesn't that make you feel...
Alicia: It feels great that people want to perform it. When I was younger, there were songs I'd always sing, like "You Bring Me Joy," by Anita Baker, "Memories," from the show Cats, "The Greatest Love of All," by Whitney Houston.
Oprah: Everybody sang that one.
Alicia: Yes. "Fallin'" was a song I fought for, shook people over, and stood up and said, "I'm not changing it."
Oprah: When and how did you write that song?
Alicia: It started in 1998, when I was at Columbia Records. I wanted to write one of those incredible songs Michael Jackson sang back in the day: You could feel his passion as if he were 50 rather than 9. I messed with some ideas, then threw them to the side. Later, as I began experiencing a lot of things for the first time—I was in my first serious relationship—I continued writing what became "Fallin'."