It’s hard to believe that barely a decade ago, this was what r’n’b sounded like.
What the FACK happened to real music y’all?
Along with heavyweights like Mary J Blige, Missy Elliott, TLC, Boyz II Men, R. Kelly, Brandy, Usher, Monica, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, Puff Daddy, Notorious BIG, Lil’ Kim etc – the late Aaliyah Dana Haughton, known lovingly as Aaliyah to her worldwide legion of fans, has been credited as being one of the most influential forces responsible for redefining, reconstructing, pioneering and popularizing a sound that would flawlessly blend in hip-hop, r’n’b, urban soul, neo-soul, electronica and rap, giving birth to a genre that significantly defined the sound of an entire decade – classic 90’s r’n’b/soul.
I’m a part of an entire generation of loyal Aaliyah fans who have grown up listening to, and being mesmerized by her music. With just 3 studio albums and a posthumous greatest hits collection, Aaliyah’s worldwide album sales stand at a staggering 32 million units. Her discography of barely 8 years, before her voice was tragically silenced forever at the tender age of 22, boasts of enough classics that have entered the realms of legends.
A typical Aaliyah song may well be defined as objectively chill-inducing. The stuttering fusion of hip-hop and r’n’b (mentored by none other than the iconic duo of Missy Elliott and Timbaland) that complemented her breathy layered vocals would eventually become her signature style that would often be imitated by many and re-created by Timbaland himself in his future productions at the peak of his career (2006-2008) when he relentlessly slayed with his collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, OneRepublic etc.
Fact : Aaliyah was way, way ahead of her times.
Remember how Ciara and Lil’ Jon rode the crunk ‘n’ b wave back in 2004-05? Try giving Aaliyah’s 1996 sophomore album ‘One In A Million‘ a listen – crunk ‘n’ b was a genre she experimented with flawlessly, 8 years before Ciara topped the Billboard Hot 100 with ‘Goodies‘.
Electro-hip-hop was literally EVERYTHING in 2009. Aaliyah’s 3rd and final studio album, 2001’s Billboard # 1 ‘Aaliyah‘ boasted of massive sounds that varied from kinetic funk to electro-neo-soul, a sound that encompassed everything that’s relevant on the charts today. In fact after giving the album another listen, I’d say the album ‘Aaliyah‘ is still eons ahead of today’s relevant sound.
My fave Aaliyah song (well I have two actually, the other being ‘Miss You‘) is the global smash ‘Try Again‘ released in the year 2000, as the lead single to the movie ‘Romeo Must Die‘ featuring Jet Li and Aaliyah.
‘Try Again‘ is a typically addictive Aaliyah song. Insane mid-tempo beats with a classic Timbaland stutter (well at least he wasn’t overdoing it back then), the song starts off with Aaliyah’s chill-inducing vocals fiercely taking over from Timbaland’s rap intro as she croons –
What would you do, to get to me
What would you say, to have your way
Would you give up, or try again
If I hesitate, to let you win.
The video of course, was incredible (it was the 90’s y’all). Directed by Wayne Isham (Janet Jackson’s ‘Black Cat‘, Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s My Life‘), and set in a hall of mirrors, Aaliyah displayed some slay-worthy moves as choreographed by Fatima Robinson (Mary J Blige’s ‘Family Affair‘).
‘Try Again‘ may well be defined as the song that defined Aaliyah’s transition from an r’n’b princess to a bonafide global megastar. The song went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (her first and only # 1 song in the US) – becoming the first song in the history of the charts to reach # 1 on the basis of airplay alone. The song also peaked at # 5 on the UK Top 40, and within the top 10 in Asia and Australia – eventually winning the MTV VMA for Best Female Video and Best Video From A Film, apart from receiving a Grammy nomination for Best R’n’B Vocalist Female.
I can’t help but wonder, had Aaliyah had not been on that ill-fated flight that crashed on August 25th, 2001, the musical landscape of this decade would have been vastly different.
RIP Baby Girl.