On Juneteenth 2020, Alicia Keys released a ballad to amplify the chants pouring through masks at every protest. “Perfect Way To Die” addresses police brutality by leading the listener through a narrative that is too often lived and ignored.
“Simple walk to the corner store/Mama never thought she would be/Getting a call from the coroner/Said her sons been gunned down,” she sings of an everyday task turning violent. The verse mirrors the 2014 murder of Michael Brown that sparked protests throughout Ferguson.
The second verse paints the story of Sandra Bland, who was arrested during a traffic stop and found hanged in a police cell in 2015. “New job, new city, new her/Bright-eyed, you would have been proud if you knew her/Flashing lights in the mirror, pull over, pull over/A couple nights in detention and it’s over, a whole life’s over.”
These emotional stories are tied together with her haunting echo, “I guess you picked the perfect way to die.” The words linger heavily like our responsibility to fuel change in any way we can. “Of course, there is NO perfect way to die,” she wrote. “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.”