Alicia Keys, the American Soul and R&B icon, urged young people in the rapidly changing Gulf Arab region to “continue to be bold” as she prepared to release her latest album on Thursday.

The 15-time Grammy winner was set to release “KEYS” at midnight (2000 GMT) in Dubai, followed by a live concert on Friday evening.

“Continue to be bold, continue to be unique,” Keys said in an interview at the Expo 2020 site, when asked about her message to young people in Gulf Arab countries.

“Don’t doubt yourself; you have everything you need within,” she added.

Large-scale social and economic changes are taking place in the energy-rich region, where the majority of the 57 million residents are under the age of 30.

Reforms in Saudi Arabia have included allowing women to drive and mixed-gender crowds at concerts, both of which were unthinkable just a few years ago, though a strict crackdown on dissent remains in place.

In the United Arab Emirates, laws are constantly being amended, which has eased a ban on unmarried couples living together and loosened alcohol restrictions.

The UAE announced this week that it would switch to a Western-style Saturday-Sunday weekend, rather than the regional norm of Friday and Saturday.

Both countries are at the forefront of a regional effort to diversify oil-dependent economies by empowering entertainment, tourism, and business.

“There’s so much innovation, so much drive, so much creativity, so much vision,” said Keys, who has sold more than 65 million records in her career.

“It’s always about progress and growth in it. And I believe that is what this music is all about “remarked the singer-songwriter.

“That is the theme of this album. This album is about being limitless, uninhibited, and pursuing your wildest dreams “Keys elaborated on her upcoming release.

Keys, 40, stated that the double-album, which includes an additional edit of each song, is also about “returning to the basics.”

“It’s all about coming, about coming home. About returning to yourself, about me returning to myself, which is why I call it ‘KEYS,’ and really just owning what I do and continuing to explore it, “She stated.

Keys will perform at the domed Al Wasl Plaza, the focal point of the vast $7 billion Expo site, where organizers hope to attract 25 million visitors over the course of the six-month world fair.

The new album is her first since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been extremely difficult for the music industry, wiping billions off its value. “I think there was so much opportunity during the pandemic to really get connected with the people you actually love and to understand what means something to you,” Keys said.

“I see things in a completely different light now. I believe we all do “She continued.

“I really learned that there is a divine order for the music that I had created because I had no idea we would have a pandemic, but the music fit so powerfully with what we were experiencing at the time.”

Keys, who is also an actress, author, and activist, is planning a summer world tour for 2022.

She will release “Girl On Fire,” a graphic novel based on her hit of the same name, in March. It tells the story of 14-year-old Lolo Wright who discovers she has telekinetic powers while protecting her brother from a cop who pulls a gun on him.