The track, called “Perfect Way to Die,” does not shy away from the spate of police killings of Black people that has rocked the country and led to nationwide protests in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks.
“Simple walk to the corner store / Momma never thought she would be getting a call from the coroner / Said her son's been gunned down, been gunned down / ‘Can you come now?’ / Tears in her eyes / ‘Can you calm down? Please, ma'am, can you calm down?’” the song begins.
The chorus captures the feeling of a life cut short.
“Baby, don't you close your eyes / This could be our final time / And you know I'm horrible at saying goodbye / And I think of all you could've done / At least you'll stay forever young I guess you've picked the perfect way to die / Ooh, I guess you picked the perfect way to die,” Keys sings.
The song then goes on to depict a woman who is stopped in her car by police before painting the scene at a protest.
“New job, new city, new her / Bright eyes, you would've been proud if you knew her / Flashing lights in the mirror, pull over, pull over / A couple nights in detention then it's over / Her whole life's over / They came marching in the city that day / They say / Carrying signs in the streets / Crying eyes in the street / But they heard nothing from the city that day /They say Just another one gone,” Keys belts out.
In an Instagram post, the 39-year-old explained why she was compelled to write the ballad.
“I have felt called by music like I never have before. I have been following its lead. It has led me to the song ‘A Perfect Way to Die.’ The song title is so powerful and heartbreaking because WE are heartbroken by so many who have died unjustly,” she wrote.
She went on to say the title of the song is meant to illustrate a point.
“Of course, there is NO perfect way to die. That phrase doesn’t even make sense. Just like it doesn’t make sense that there are so many innocent lives that should not have been taken from us due to the destructive culture of police violence,” she wrote.
“Sometimes I don’t have the words and music is the only thing that can speak. I hope this speaks to you. I hope one day this song won’t be so relevant. Let’s NEVER stop fighting for justice.”