If I Ain’t Got You

March 8, 2021


Zoey Hupman

In today’s world, being a musical artist has a lot to offer. People cling to music as a comfort because it helps them escape reality.

With that being said, think of the impact some of these artists can have when they use their voices to convey something that matters to them. An artist who I feel conveyed something that matters is Alicia Keys when she wrote and released If I Ain’t Got You in 2004. 

Although at first glance the song may seem like just another love song, the lyrics speak of something entirely different. The main focus of the song is to not let material things rule your life, instead cherish the people that matter most to you.

Keys was inspired to write the song because of the death of American singer-songwriter Aaliyah Haughton, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and other things going on in Keys life at the time. She wanted to write a song to help the world realize how “material things don’t feed the soul”.

When the song first starts, you’re welcomed by fluid piano playing and Keys humming along in the background. The first verse goes as follows, “Some people live for the fortune, some people live for the fame, some people live for the power, some people live just to play the game.” Not only does her voice sound as smooth as honey, but the lyrics are so beautifully written.

What I like about Keys writing is that it isn’t hard to understand what she is trying to say. She doesn’t make you decode some cryptic message; Keys means exactly what she wrote. Some people live for money, others live to be known by the world. Some people dream of ruling the world while others like living the simple life and are just here for a good time. 

The second verse leads into the chorus by a key change and a building of the bass. The second verse is, “Some people think that the physical things define what’s within, and I’ve been there before, that life’s a bore, so full of the superficial.”

In this verse, Keys is trying to show that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, but what’s within. Looking a certain way and presenting certain aspects of your life will only get you so far. 

The next part of the verse is her trying to tell listeners that she relates to what they’re going through and that they’re not alone. She’s tired of people being fake and shallow. She wants the real, raw, vulnerability that comes with being who you truly are.

The chorus follows the second verse and goes as follows, “Some people want it all, but I don’t want nothin’ at all, if it ain’t you, baby, if I ain’t got you, baby. Some people want diamond rings, some just want everything, but everything means nothing, if I ain’t got you, yeah.”

When Keys wrote the chorus to this song, she wasn’t writing it for the love of her life. She was actually writing it for Aaliyah Haughton who had recently died in a plane accident. 

In the chorus she explains how some people want everything in the world, but she doesn’t want any of it if she doesn’t have the people who matter most there with her to experience all of the things life has to offer.

One of my favorite lines of the song is, “Everything means nothing’ if I ain’t got you.” I don’t think people appreciate this line enough. It’s literally saying that she could have everything in the world, but it wouldn’t be worth it if she didn’t have the people she loves with her.

After the chorus, the third verse follows, “Some people search for a fountain, promises forever young, some people need three dozen roses, and that’s the only way to prove you love them.”

The third verse follows the same pattern and beat that the first verse does.In the first part of the verse Keys is trying to explain that some people spend their whole life trying to stay young. They worry so much about not growing old that they miss out on life.

In the second part of the third verse she is saying that some people need material things, that will die or become nothing one day, in order for them to know that you love them. That verse is so sad to me because it’s true. Individuals get so caught up in what you can give them that they don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone.

The fourth verse is the last verse complete verse of the song and it goes, “Hand me the world on a silver platter, and what good would it be. With no one to share, with no one who truly cares for me.”

This verse is another one that I really like. Keys is saying, again, that you could give her everything in the world and spoil her but it wouldn’t do any good if she’s surrounded by people who only want what she has instead of wanting her for who she is.

The song concludes with two more runs through the chorus and half of a verse that goes as follows, “Said nothin’ in this whole wide world don’t mean a thing, if I ain’t got you with me, baby.

If I Ain’t Got You truly does have to be one of my top five songs of all time because of the way Keys used her voice to share something that matters to her. In my opinion, that’s what music should be about.

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