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Music / Aaliyah

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If at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again.

"Aaliyah was a flower that was just blooming."

Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), who performed under the mononym Aaliyah, was an American recording artist, actress, and model. She was born in Brooklyn but raised in Detroit.

At an early age, she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. At age 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and Blackground Records by her uncle, Barry Hankerson. He introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, released when she was 15. The album sold three million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum. After facing strong scrutiny over her relationship with Kelly, including allegations that the two were briefly married when she was 15, Aaliyah ended her personal and professional relationship with Kelly alongside her contract with Jive, and signed to Atlantic Records.

Aaliyah worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, One in a Million; it sold three million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. In 2000, she appeared in her first major film, Romeo Must Die, and also contributed to the film's soundtrack, which spawned the single "Try Again". The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this feat. "Try Again" earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist.

After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah filmed her part in Queen of the Damned, and released her third album Aaliyah on July 7, 2001.

Just over a month later, on August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in an airplane crash in The Bahamas after filming the music video for the single "Rock the Boat". She was only 22 years old. The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system, and the plane had been massively overloaded with recording equipment. Aaliyah's family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, which was settled out of court.

Since then, Aaliyah's music has achieved commercial success with several posthumous releases. With album sales estimated to be between 24 to 32 million copies worldwide, Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine R&B and hip hop, earning her the nickname "Princess of R&B".


  • 1994: Age Ain't Nothing but a Number
  • 1996: One In A Million
  • 2001: Aaliyah

Released posthumously:

  • 2002: I Care 4 U (compilation album of unreleased songs)
  • 2005: Ultimate Aaliyah (compilation album; The first disc is a collection of her greatest hits, while the second disc contains material from soundtrack and studio albums)
  • 2022: Unstoppable (contains new tracks and colloborations with artists like The Weeknd and Chris Brown)

Aaliyah exhibits these tropes:

  • Affectionate Nickname: 'Li-Li' and 'Baby Girl' to her friends and family.
  • Award-Bait Song:
    • As was tradition in the 90s, she recorded one of these to tie in with an animated film. Hers was "Journey To The Past" from Anastasia, which she performed at the 1998 Oscars.
    • "The One I Gave My Heart To" is closer to this than her usual stuff. It's a sweeping ballad about love, and allows her to really belt it out.
  • Beach Episode: The video for "Rock The Boat", which was filmed in the Bahamas.
  • Child Prodigy: Both from a performing and academic point of view. She had a 4.0 GPA in high school, which means she was a straight-A student.
  • Feather Boa Constrictor: "We Need a Resolution," both song and video, have a snake theme. They were her favorite animal.
  • Genre Roulette: Her third album had elements of R&B, pop, electronica, and rock.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Missy Elliot described her as someone who "always made sure her nails were done, her perfume was right, and her bag had lotion and lip gloss" - but she still had a very casual, tomboyish image.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: She loved stuffed animals and collected them. She had a beloved orangutan given to her by her grandmother that she was especially attached to.
  • Heroic Resolve: "Try Again" states that the girl is interested and playing hard to get - but that doesn't mean the boy shouldn't keep trying.
  • Hip Hop Soul: Age Ain't Nothing But A Number was a mix of Hip Hop Soul and New Jack Swing. One In A Million and Aaliyah used Hip Hop Soul exclusively.
  • Idol Singer: And a Teen Idol at that, given she was signed at the age of twelve.
  • Intercourse with You: "Rock The Boat", "More Than A Woman," "One In a Million," "Hot Like Fire"
  • Jailbait Taboo: Her reported marriage to R.Kelly when she 15 and he was 27. A much milder version is implied in "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number", which talks about a younger girl wanting a relationship with a slightly older boy who is "afraid" about starting with her because of her age.
  • Likes Older Men: "Age ain't nothin' but a number"
  • Little Black Dress: She wears one in the video for "We Need a Resolution".
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Aaliyah ran into this; people would claim that she owed her fame more to her beauty and overproduction thanks to Timbaland rather than her own singing talent. Of course, after she died tragically, this is rarely if ever brought up. She's now remembered as a great singer who died too soon.
  • No Romantic Resolution: Appropriately enough the song "We Need a Resolution" ends without the eponymous resolution.
  • Redemption in the Rain: The climax of the video for "The One I Gave My Heart To" features her singing and dancing triumphantly in the rain.
  • The Quiet One: She was reportedly very quiet in large gatherings of people, and was usually very soft-spoken in interviews.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: The video for her cover of the Anastasia song "Journey To The Past" features her and some children entering the movie's animated world, and appearing to interact with its denizens.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Given her casual style, it was a surprise to see her wearing a dress for the 1998 Oscars (though she did say she bought it off the rack). She would be seen in dresses a little more often as she got older.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Her duet with DMX, "Come Back in One Piece".
  • Splash of Color: For the video of "If Your Girl Only Knew" it starts out Deliberately Monochrome with only Aaliyah herself in color - and she then gradually adds color to the rest of the setting.
  • Their First Time: "Hot Like Fire" is from the perspective of a girl who wants to wait for sex but promises it will be great when she's finally ready.
  • Title Track: One In A Million and Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.
  • Token Wholesome: With regards to her sex symbol status, Rolling Stone's obituary said:
    "She was remarkable for being sexy without selling herself, for finding the thin line where she could attract the boys without embarrassing the moms."
  • Unbuilt Trope: A pioneer for the essential sound and subject matter of R&B today, Aaliyah's songs avoided The Unfair Sex that is now quite common among R&B artists.
  • The Unfair Sex: Her music intentionally avoided this. Which is rare considering R&B is prone to lopsided male bashing.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: The video for "Come Back in One Piece" features clips from Romeo Must Die.