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  • alicia-keysSongstress Alicia Keys says she almost quit the music industry when her grandmother passed away in 2006, but channeled her emotions instead to create a “new sound” for her latest LP The Element of Freedom.

    Keys raised awareness for AIDS and her fourth album at a benefit concert on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) at New York City’s NOKIA Theatre.

    She played two new songs, “Love Is Blind” and “Distance and Time.” She closed the show with a guest appearance by Jay-Z and they sang “Empire State of Mind.”

    Keys and Rihanna also performed live over the weekend on the UK show “X-Factor,’ the U.K. equivalent of “American Idol.”

    The new album, which is due Dec. 15, is about overcoming depression, she says.

    “I found more freedom. Before, I thought I could only show the strong side of me. Now there’s a mixture of strong and delicate. A new sound, a new emotion. That’s a lot of who I am right now,’ she says.

    “In the past, I was locking myself in the studio because I thought it was the only way to create music. This was a more casual way to do it. The tour will take me all over the world for a year and I can’t wait to play these songs.”

    In 2006, the 28-year-old “Girlfriend” singer almost suffered a breakdown after her grandmother passed away. She took a three-week holiday in Egypt to grieve for her loss before she released ‘As I Am’ a year later.

    “With the last album, I was really trying to find myself and I was feeling extremely overworked. I was also starting to understand that I was dealing with certain people in business that were not really for me and they all had their intentions and thoughts,” she told Britain’s Daily Star newspaper.

    “I was snappy, I was nasty, I was mean, losing my grandmother during that time as well. Everything felt like it could all just tumble down at once,” she said.