The late singer Aaliyah was a talent destined for greatness, and with mega-producer Timbaland behind her, in the short time that the two made music they had a huge impact on the sound of R’n’B going into the turn of the millennium. Aaliyah was the predecessor to Beyonc and was one of the biggest solo R’n’B singers at the turn of the millennium, along with the likes of Mary J Blige and Mariah Carey.
A true trendsetter, Aaliyah, with her emotional, heartfelt lyrics and angelic harmonies, set a precedent for upcoming singers. With Timbaland’s Arabian samples and quirky futuristic production, the tag team’s musical influence shifted popular culture and would become the sound of 2000s R’n’B.
As well as being in a very public relationship with the now disgraced singer R Kelly, Aaliyah actually got married to the singer. Seemingly on a high, Aaliyah’s R’n’B reign was suddenly cut short when the singer passed away in what today is still classed as a disastrous tragedy.
In 2001 the singer flew in a Cessna 202 to the Bahamas to record a music video for her single ‘Rock The Boat’. However, the artist attempted to take a flight back to the US in a smaller Cessna 404, with the luggage exceeding the plane’s weight limit. Struggling to handle the load, the 404 simply crashed and caught fire after only ascending 200ft into the air.
Leaving behind such an incredible catalogue of music, this feature will try to determine the five best Aaliyah songs of all time.
The five best Aaliyah songs of all time
5. ‘Are You That Somebody?’ (1998)
Produced by the legendary Timbaland, who also worked extensively with Missy Elliot, ‘Are You That Somebody?’ is a classic pop-funk record and was recorded by Aaliyah for the Dr Doolittle soundtrack. Written by acclaimed songwriter Static Major, ‘Are You That Somebody?’ performed very well commercially but did better in the UK than in the US.
‘Are You That Somebody?’ peaked at 21 on the US Billboard Hot 100 but reached number 11 on the UK Singles Chart. With a funky beat, this Aaliyah single is undoubtedly a jam, deserving of a spot in the top five.
4. ‘Rock The Boat’ (2001)
This one is a sad song as it reminds one of the artist’s death. It was the last song she ever recorded. However, that doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the song. Another quality track written by Static Major, ‘Rock The Boat’ was the second single for the singer’s self-titled album ‘Aaliyah’, which was released one month before her death.
‘Rock The Boat’ features ethereal atmospheres and hypnotic rhythms, which suit the singer’s tone to a tee. The accompanying video truly depicts a tropical paradise with its smooth sunsets and cyan ocean scenes. Overall, ‘Rock The Boat’ truly is a great song most definitely deserving of its place on this list.
3. ‘Back & Forth’ (1994)
Released in April 1994, ‘Back & Forth’ was the lead single for Aaliyah’s debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. Both written and produced by the now sullied R Kelly, ‘Back & Forth’ was received extremely well, reaching number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
Born in 1979, Aaliyah was only 15 years of age when this song entered the charts. The song has often been dubbed one of the first “urban-pop” songs, as it was among the first wave of songs released in the 90s that could appeal to both an urban and pop market. Other artists such as Mary J Blige and Usher were also part of pioneering the “urban-pop” crossover sound. The video for ‘Back & Forth’ was filmed in the same Detroit High School that Aaliyah attended in the gymnasium and on the basketball court.
2. ‘Try Again’ (2000)
One of Aaliyah’s most well-known tracks, ‘Try Again’ produced by Timbaland, has an extremely unique and quirky sound. Boasting an almost alien-sounding synth gliding continuously and a memorable, highly dramatic intro, ‘Try Again’ is one of the quintessential R’n’B tracks of the early noughties.
One of its most distinctive features is that apart from its dramatic intro, the backing track of the song has effectively no reverb meaning the track is very clinical and digital, being sonically devoid of any sense of space or atmosphere. This leaves Aaliyah’s voice to provide the entire atmosphere for the song, and her beautiful harmonies and backing vocals fill up the track tremendously. The track’s music video is very dark and futuristic and features Timbaland for the intro.
1. ‘More Than A Woman’ (2001)
So snatching the top spot is the classic Aaliyah jam ‘More Than A Woman’. Sampling a classic Arabian song, ‘Alouly Ansa’ by Syrian-Egyptian singer Mayada El Hennawy, Timbaland really hit the spot with this production and was ingenious in the way he used it.
‘More Than A Woman’ was Aaliyah’s first and only song to go to number one on the UK Singles Chart and won a MOBO award at the 2002 awards for ‘Best Video’. More than a woman didn’t perform well in the US because it was never commercially released as a result of Aaliyah’s death, the label halted its release so as not to cause an uproar.
The music video for ‘More Than A Woman’ is truly enthralling and is an experience. Directed by Dave Meyers in Los Angeles, the video is meant to take place inside a motorbike and, considering it was created in 2001, contains a lot of CGI and motion effects. The video had a high budget, and Aaliyah even wore a custom-made Chanel jumpsuit created by designer Dapper Dan for the video.
So ‘More Than A Woman’ lands at number one.