Friday, January 17, 2020

Playlist Project: Aaliyah

On January 16, we remember the late R&B singer Aaliyah (Houghton) on the date of her birth. This is a somewhat delicate choice as I am not revisiting her entire career, particularly since she was an early protege of R. Kelly. In other words, she was one of his original instead of highlighting that first album, I wanted to focus on her collaboration with ├╝ber producer Timbaland. (Not that he doesn't have his own baggage with respect to his inappropriate feelings towards her, but we'll address that at another time.)

At the time of her tragic death, Aaliyah was 22 years old, and possibly on the precipice of an extraordinary career. She had a string of hits and had even performed Journey to the Past from the movie Anastasia at the Academy Awards in 1998 (the youngest singer to do so), so for many of her fans, the what-ifs remain these many years later. While revisiting her catalog, her influence and legacy are evident in the work of her peers, most notably Ciara and Mya, as well as newcomers like Normani (who must have been all of five when Aaliyah died).

The late 90s was the high water mark for big name music collaborations, with Timbaland serving as the production Godfather for many of those hits. He produced Aaliyah's sophomore album, One in a Million in 1996, along with Missy Elliot (who has a cameo in the video for the title track). In fact, these two artists are inextricably linked as Best Friends, a song from Elliot's debut album, Supa Dupa Fly (1997). Their bond was fondly recalled in this remembrance of the late singer. Here are some of Aaliyah's notable hits:

One in a Million (1996)
If Your Girl Only Knew

Hot Like Fire

Up Jumps Da Boogie - Timbaland and Magoo (Welcome to Our World ~ 1997)

Are You That Somebody? - Dr. Doolittle (1998)

Try Again - Romeo Must Die (2000)

Aaliyah (2001)
More Than a Woman

Rock the Boat

And as we know, Aaliyah and eight members of her entourage died in a plane crash after she shot that video. Thinking back to the is hard to say. The music business is fickle and while solo women singers are again having a moment (with Ella Mai, H.E.R., Ari Lennox, and SZA holding it down), most of Aaliyah's contemporaries have reached that point in their careers where we are wondering what happened. It's hard to imagine how a 40-something Aaliyah would fare in Beyonce's music business. The fact that we remember her proves that her impact was significant, so it is fitting to end this tribute with a nod to her posthumous album, I Care 4 U released in 2002. In addition to this hot title track, it featured the single Miss You which I posted to the FB page back in 2011. Indeed we do.

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