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It's the element of balance for Alicia Keys

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 14: Singer Alicia Keys

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 14: Singer Alicia Keys performs onstage during the NBA All-Star Game held at Cowboys Stadium on February 14, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. Photo Credit: Getty

Alicia Keys says that balance is very important to her.

"There's no getting around putting in the work," she said at a recent lecture to NYU students. "But there's more creativity to be found in balance."

After 10 years in the music business, Keys said she has learned that being a workaholic doesn't necessarily bring better work. It's an idea she put into practice as she worked on her latest album, "The Element of Freedom," featuring the upcoming single "Put It in a Love Song" with Beyoncé.

While she worked on her new music, as well as her new tour, which stops at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, Keys was also building up other projects close to her heart:

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BIG PITA, LIL' PITA PRODUCTIONS

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The New York-based production company, founded by Keys and her manager, Jeff Robinson, is set to debut its first project, "Zora" - about a biracial high school student coping with her parents' divorce - on the CW later this year. The company also has an MTV show in production, as well as the next F. Gary Gray film.

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Keys is working with the company founded by designer Gisele Theriault to promote its line of jewelry and watches that feature inspirational messages. Pendants say, "An ocean of gratitude," or "Courage, my love," while rings quote Buddha and Shakespeare. It's the first company Keys has partnered with under her new company, AK Worldwide, which will focus on her nonmusic projects.

WHAT CRITICS SAY

"Keys is a classically trained pianist with neo-soul vocal chops who is best served by keeping things small and relatively intimate. But in her concerts, she also tries to compete with spectacle-heavy peers such as Beyoncé, Pink and Christina Aguilera."

- Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune


"Keys has the artistic freedom to do whatever she wants, but playing more to her strengths as a pianist would be a wise move."

- Bobby Reed, Chicago Sun-Times


"She is more engaging than in the past; she is a better dancer and more comfortable interacting with the audience. But for all her efforts, it was when she slowed down and played it straight that Keys was most compelling."

- T'Cha Dunlevy, Montreal Gazette

SET LIST

Though Keys' concerts can change, here's what she played in Chicago earlier this month:

Caged Bird

Love Is Blind

Trouble

You Don't Know My Name

Fallin'

Another Way to Die

Karma

Heartburn

Like the Sea

I Need You

Prayer for Forgiveness

Diary

Like You'll Never See Me Again

Wait Til You See Me Smile

Go Ahead

Put It in a Love Song

Unthinkable (I'm Ready)

Try Sleeping With a Broken

Heart

Superwoman

If I Ain't Got You

No One

Encore: Empire State of Mind

INFO

WHO Alicia Keys

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan

INFO $49.50-$125; 800-745-3000, thegarden.com

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