10 Best Songs From Aaliyah
Ten years have passed since the music industry and legions of fans reluctantly bid farewell to Aaliyah Dana Haughton, an R&B powerhouse who showed tremendous growth and lyrical grace during her drastically shortened career. On August 25, 2001, when she died in a tragic plane crash over the Bahamas, at the age of 22, it was apparent the sonic landscape lost a singing angel. With three albums to her name — ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,’ ‘One in a Million’ and ‘Aaliyah’ — she proved to be the quintessential guideline for female artists to follow. The BoomBox highlights 10 of Baby Girl’s famed tracks that have lived on well after her passing.
10. ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number’
Fifteen years old at the time of its release, this song, which shares the same title as her debut album, is perhaps the most controversial of Aaliyah‘s career. Written by R. Kelly, the soulful ballad had the teen R&B singer crooning of longing for an older lover. Shortly after it’s release, a marriage certificate emerged and reportedly listed Kells, who was then 27, and the Detroit native as married in 1994.
9. ‘The One I Give My Heart To’
Listen to Aaliyah’s catalog and her records are heavily dipped in R&B, with a hint of hip-hop flavor sprinkled in between. ‘The One I Give My Heart To’ is a departure from that, leaning heavily on the side of pop power ballad. Esteemed songwriter Diane Warren penned the distraught lyrics, which the Brooklyn-born chanteuse owned completely, allowing her vulnerability to be exposed: “How could the one I was so true to just tell me lies?/ How could the one I gave my heart to break this heart of mine?”
8. ‘4 Page Letter’
As if often the case, sometimes the spoken word is better left to be expressed in the form of a letter. The R&B siren chose to highlight the rarely used form of communication in an effort to express her affection for a dude who caught her eye. Now it may seem unfathomable for a woman of Aaliyah’s beauty and finesse to be too shy to approach a member of the opposite sex, but pretty girls are only human.
7. ‘If Your Girl Only Knew’
This track welcomed Aaliyah fans into what was to be expected from her sophomore album, ‘One in a Million.’ Where her debut LP had her warming up, racy material like this proved she was on fire. Timbaland crafted the beat, Missy Elliott wrote the lyrics and the woman who showed Beyonce a thing or two in her career demonstrated the art of seductive vocals. Ladies everywhere could relate to the storyline: a man who sneaks behind his woman’s back.
6. ‘Back & Forth’
A “funky mellow groove” is all this rising songstress needed to detail a good time with her girls. Moving away from the R&B that speaks of heartbreak and betrayal, Aaliyah’s vocals shined on the lead single from her debut LP, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,’ as she sang of hitting the dancefloor and getting lost in the DJ’s tunes. Kelly, who penned the track, showed up to assist with a rap verse.
5. ‘Rock the Boat’
Off her eponymous self-titled third LP, which was often dubbed “The Red Album” for its cover depicting the singer posing in front of a red backdrop, ‘Rock the Boat’ centered on Aaliyah embracing her sexuality. Apparently the song was written two years prior to its actual release due to the soulfully gifted artist’s record label fearing the song’s material was too explicit with lyrics like “stroke it for me,” “change positions” and “explore my body.”
4. ‘More Than a Woman’
At 22, Aaliyah let her listeners know that she was leaving teen angst behind and embracing her womanhood. On the track, written by Static Major and produced by Timbaland, the songstress wasn’t afraid to express her corporal desires for her man. From grinding underneath the covers to morning massages, the slim and trim bombshell with the jet-black tresses was all about pleasing him, even if he wasn’t quite prepared for the surprises she had in store.
3. ‘One in a Million’
Written by Missy Elliott and Timbaland, and produced by the latter, ‘One in a Million’ was yet another example of the trio’s work as a tour de force. The instrumental itself dripped with sex appeal and Aaliyah’s musical stylings only enhanced the vibe. The then 17-year-old struck lyrical gold with, “Won’t let no one come and take your place/ ‘Cause the love you give can’t be replaced/ See no one else love me like you do/ That’s why I don’t mind to spend my life with you.”
2. ‘Are You That Somebody?’
Flirtations run deep on this record, which was created for the ‘Dr. Doolittle’ soundtrack in the late ’90s. Baby Girl, as Aaliyah was so often called, sang of a late-night rendezvous with a special someone that needed to be kept on the hush. Perhaps what was so intriguing about this song, besides the sound of Aaliyah’s tender voice, were the coos of a baby littered throughout the Timbo-crafted beat.
1. ‘Try Again’
With a No. 1 placement on the Billboard Hot 100 and a Grammy nomination, the lead single from the ‘Romeo Must Die’ soundtrack garnered Aaliyah critical acclaim. Though it was written specifically for the film she starred in alongside Jet Li and DMX, the singer-turned-actress executed her talents on the track as if it was featured on her own album. Again, Timbaland’s signature beats supported A’s ginger vocals, which spoke of being tenacious in the face of defeat.