The Verzuz battle between Alicia Keys and John Legend went down this Friday. Purposefully scheduled on Juneteenth, as a celebration of the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the two musicians united forces to bless our ears and warm our hearts with their melodic voices during this pivotal time.
As per usual the night wasn’t so much a competition, but more a celebration of music. The evening started out with a duet of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” that totally gave us goosebumps, followed by a bit of banter from the two opponents, and after teasing a few songs to come, they got right to it.
The entire battle lasted about two hours and forty minute and was filled amazing music, fun anecdotes and inspirational moments. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Round 1: Alicia was up first with her feature on Baby Cham’s “Ghetto Story,” but what got us most excited was what Legend responded with. John decided to flex on us all with his first appearance on a major project. Taking us back to 1998, he recalled the time he met Lauryn Hill, when he was just 19 years old. After playing her a few songs, one thing led to another and he ended up playing the keys on “Everything is Everything” off the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. John pressed play and accompanied the track by tickling the ivories to the hit single that until now we had no idea he played any part in.
Round 4: It was Alicia’s turn again, and she hit us with her feature on Eve’s 2002 bop “Gangsta Lovin’.” Besides the song being the ultimate “summer vibe,” Key’s took us back to a simpler time when iPods still existed, cell phones flipped open, and Ben Affleck was People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. For this, it was definitely one of our favorite moments. Oh, and John played “So High.”
Round 5: Usher featuring Alicia Keys, “My Boo.” Enough said, lol just kidding, John slayed this round as well. Deciding to “take it slow,” John showed off his piano playing skills with “Ordinary People.” He recalled, “the day I knew I was famous, 2005, this song had been out for a little while and I got a call from two people I had been looking up to for a long time: Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson on the same day,” he said. “I was like ‘ok I’m famous now.'" Nbd, just a casual call from Oprah.
Round 6: Key’s kept on with the theme of love, but this time sharing a love song to her city, “New York State of Mind.” John’s answered back with, Common’s “They Say” featuring him and Kanye West. This time John stepped out from behind the piano to show off a little two-step action. While Key’s won us over with her song selection, if we’re being honest, John’s jig really stole the show for us on this round.
Round 9: Alicia sang “If I Ain’t Got You” and John went with “This Time.” By this point in the battle we realized that honestly whatever these two sing, we’re here for it. Their voices take us to magical places, which is greatly appreciated since were not physically allowed to travel. Even though John snapped with this ballad, there is no denying Alicia took this one, the keys, the lyrics about devotional love, and her raspy alto. Ugh! Yass Kween, we were living for all of it!
As the rounds continued on, we saw the return of John’s awkward two-step, a mix of performing in front of and behind the piano, and even a bit of collaboration between the two opponents. The two continued to bust out hit after hit, Legend with “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)” feat. Ludacris and "Green Light" feat. Andre 3000. Alicia with “A Woman’s Worth,” which received some love in the comments from a fan, jk not just any fan, it was Michelle Obama!
After being alerted Keys dedicated the song to the former First Lady and the other women watching.
The two even took an intermission and sipped on some champagne while listening to Rick Ross’ “Magnificent,” which John is featured on. Keys' wished a “Happy Juneteenth,” as the pair toasted to viewers. And as the episode was a special edition commemoration of Juneteenth, Legend introduced his Oscar-winning song “Glory” with a history lesson about the holiday.
“There were several moments that you could call emancipation days for Black people in America: Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation in 1862 and it was official on the first day of January 1863 but the word didn’t get to part of Texas until 1865 and that’s the day that Juneteenth commemorates… That’s why we celebrate this holiday to honor our ancestors but also to encourage this country, to admonish this country, that we need to get even more free, more justice, more equality and we have to keep fighting for it.”
Overall the night was filled with fun and good vibes, a showcasing of the power of live musicianship and good songwriting. The ultimate winner, as with all Verzuz battles, was the music, and in this case John’s dance moves.