A press release from CNN provides some background on the song’s history.
The song was originally written to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes in Keys’ life, like her mom who she watched struggle as a single woman in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, and many others who she saw were often overlooked. In the wake of the current global pandemic, she realized her message coincidentally fit the moment.
“Whether you’re on the frontlines at the hospitals, balancing work, family and homeschool teaching, delivering mail, packages, or food, or facing other personal difficulties because of COVID-19, I feel you. You are seen, loved and deeply appreciated,” said Keys.
The song will also be used as the theme for a new CNN Heroes campaign celebrating the ordinary people who’ve emerged as heroes during the COVID-19 crisis. Starting Friday, viewers and users will be invited to share pictures and videos of individuals from their communities who are doing a good job to make the world a better, safer and healthier place. CNN will recognize a collection of these everyday heroes across its TV, digital and social channels each week.
The day before CNN’s town hall, Keys joined Fat Joe, Whoopi Goldberg, Remy Ma, Papoose, M.C. Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Diddy on BET—all showing their love for New York City—for the ”Saving Our Selves: COVID-19 Relief Effort” special on April 22. The New York City native sang a powerful new version of “Empire State of Mind,” her 2009 hit collaboration with Jay-Z (which also won two Grammys).
Some hospitals in New York City have been playing her song to celebrate victories against the virus.
Thank you Alicia Keys, and thank you to all those people risking their lives to rescue and support the rest of us.