Aaliyah’s One in a Million: The 20th Anniversary
It’s been fifteen years since Aaliyah’s passing and her absence hurts no less. Despite the circumstances, she left behind a legacy and a discography of music that continues to enthrall artists and fans alike. Though we only got three albums from the songbird, all were impeccable works of art that stamped Aaliyah as the “Princess of R&B”. In honoring her, August 27th will mark 20 years since the release of her second album One in a Million. This era of her music encompassed maturity and creativity audiences hadn’t seen from the singer. With a new sound and look, One in a Million was the album that situated Aaliyah in her own category. Introduced to audiences as a young girl, this era was the beginning of the woman she blossomed into.
With her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, Aaliyah gave audiences a sultry voice with a tomboy image. The album was the traditional R&B sound that encompassed themes of young love and party anthems that were fitting for her age. Transitioning into the second album, Aaliyah had matured in age and looks. No more oversized shirts and saggy pants. Black, leather, baggy jeans or pants, midriff tops, and her signature hair over her eye was her new MO. Her appearance still gave a bit of tomboy tease, but it was also sexy. Regardless of what she wore, she still maintained her femininity. Also included with her change in style was the choreography she added to her performances and videos. Her movements flowed like water and she danced with grace. The dancing seemed to fit her well and was another added trait that made her likeable. Yet, what really differentiated Aaliyah from her previous album and from her peers was the production. While R. Kelly wrote and produced the majority of her first album, she linked up with two up and coming producers, Missy Elliot and Timbaland. While Missy used her pen to write the lyrics, Timbaland made some of the beats. Once you add in Aaliyah’s vocals, a really good album is created.
While most traditional R&B relies on instruments, Timbaland utilized everyday sounds like a child’s laughter as music. The trio created magic like “If Your Girl Only Knew”, “4 Page Letter”, and the title track “One in a Million”. With this new sound, the album sold over eight million copies hitting certified double platinum. At this point, Aaliyah, with help with Missy and Tim, was creating music that never sounded outdated. Even today, her songs could be played on the radio and anyone who wasn’t familiar with her could assume she was a new artist. One in a Million really set the tone for her career and she only got better with the album that followed. Outside of her album, Aaliyah seemed to be everywhere. She’d become a spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger, as well as, having “Are You that Somebody” and “Journey to the Past” on the Dr. Dolittle and Anastasia soundtracks. She was able to perform “Journey to the Past” at the 1998 Oscars, making her the youngest artist to do so. Her song on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack snagged her a Grammy nomination, though she didn’t win it. Outside of her professional life, Aaliyah was also making strides academically. When she wasn’t gracing the stage, she was attending Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts. She majored in drama and graduated with a 4.0. How was she was able to maintain both lifestyles is an amazing feat, but one she seemed to handle without complaint.
The One in a Million era was just the start of good things to come for Aaliyah. She went on to create her 3rd album, Aaliyah, which is her best project and sonically, is out of this world. However, her second album enabled her to craft her own sound and style that is simply timeless. With beauty, a voice, and classiness, it’s no wonder why everybody loves Aaliyah. Although 22 years wasn’t nearly enough time, Aaliyah did enough with it to make herself truly unforgettable.