Pop Psalms: Alicia Keys’ “No One”
Editor's note: Our free Pop Psalms ebook, featuring all 12 essays in one place, is available here.
Everyone wants to be loved by someone. Maybe even more accurate is the fact that everyone needs to be loved by someone. That is how we were created. God placed an unquenchable need for him in each of us. Even when we try to reason away the desire for intimate relationships, our innermost thoughts often betray us.
There is no shortage of love songs, as countless artists have tried to capture love’s essence. Every once in a while, an artist creates a romantic tribute that reflects the love that exists between us and God. A tender confession of how we are made complete in him. This soul-satisfying love is captured in Alicia Keys’ 2007 song “No One,” which echoes David’s words of prayer in Psalm 86.
The opening scene of Keys’ video for the song sets an intimate tone as she sits in a fairly empty room bathed in warm, golden light coming from an open window. The upbeat piano melody and softened clash of cymbals combined with images of bronzed gears help create a timeless nostalgia. Keys’ initial lines make no doubt as to the affections she has towards her beloved:
I just want you close
Where you can stay forever
You can be sure
That it will only get better
She is bold and has no shame in declaring her desires; likewise, David is transparent in his initial pleas to the Lord. While the opening lines of his prayer are laced with sadness about his “poor and needy” state of being, David speaks with assurance that God will “save (his) servant who trusts in (him).” He continues to put his faith in God during times of uncertainty by praying:
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.
These lines are akin to Keys’ own woeful declaration:
When the rain is pouring down
And my heart is hurting
You will always be around
This I know for certain
She is no longer in the sun-bathed room from before but now sits in a darkened backdrop surrounded by rain. Keys’ tone becomes fuller as her pitch deepens. She draws out her words to emphasize the angst she is experiencing as she plays at a rain-stained piano. Her black-and-gray outfit and the muted lighting help further convey her emotional pain. Yet even when shrouded in uncertain circumstances, she manages to hold onto hope that her lover will be with her during times of heartache.
Every once in a while, an artist creates a romantic tribute that reflects the love that exists between us and God.
God validates this type of unwavering hope multiple times throughout scripture. He makes promises to be there for his people when they call on his name. Knowing this, David asks the Lord to “give (him) an undivided heart.” Oftentimes, instead of standing firm in Christ, the inclination is to turn to someone or something else when circumstances become rocky. Keys puts her full assurance in her partner when she sings:
People keep talking, they can say what they like
But all I know is everything's gonna be alright
And a few lines later she acknowledges the outside temptations that can add strain to a relationship.
I know some people search the world
To find something like what we have
I know people will try, try to divide something so real
No matter what others may say, a person must learn to put their full faith in God by remaining faithful to him, even when experiencing heartache or misfortune. What makes true love so appealing is not the joy-filled moments when life is going smoothly. What makes true love appealing is the fact that one person says to the other that they are committed even when there are long periods of pain and suffering.
God makes the commitment to be our solid ground through every season of life. No person truly experiences joy until they have gone through the depths of sadness. No one can truly understand love until they have gone through a period of time without the fulfillment love brings. David’s experiences with unfaithful relatives and trusted friends, in comparison to the Lord’s own faithfulness, prompt him to praise God by saying “among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.” And out of the depths of her heart, Keys’ belts the soulful chorus that all Christians can sing to God:
And no one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I'm feeling
No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I feel for you, you, you