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DAR Music: Revisiting Aaliyah's Catalog


By @TrueGodImmortal


Once upon a time, there was one woman who commanded the attention of the R&B world. Her influence is evident through this era and the one before it, even though her time in music was slightly limited. Aaliyah came onto the scene with a focus to make her music as legendary as possible, and that's exactly what she was able to do. With only three official albums under her belt, a discussion about Aaliyah as an artist is always a short one, but what she managed to accomplish in that period of time was amazing. With multiple albums that reached platinum or better, as well as a long catalog of singles that dominated the charts and beyond, she was on top of the world until her unfortunate passing, which rocked the genre by far. Today, I wanted to look at her projects (I'm covering 5 of them, since I count Romeo Must Die: The Album, and I do not count Ultimate Aaliyah) and rank them from best to worst. There are only really three full length projects from her to speak of, but the question is, how do those projects rank? What is no. 1? Let's take a look.

5. Romeo Must Die: The Album (2000)


-So, I'll be honest. I'm not going to say that this is an actual Aaliyah album, because it isn't, but it is a soundtrack that is spearheaded by her, so it does make the list. She carried the entire project, and of course she was the star of the film, so naturally it was only right to put this here. I won't discuss it too much, as it doesn't have longevity that her other projects did, but it does feature two of the bigger singles in her career, so it is noteworthy. While the tracks from artists like Joe, B.G., Dave Bing, Chante Moore, and even Ginuwine were forgettable, the highlights of this soundtrack are mostly all Aaliyah. The smash hit "Try Again" was a top 5 Billboard success, and even the ballad "I Don't Wanna" managed to hit the charts as well, showcasing her power as an artist still after nearly 4 years off from the game. Aaliyah actually was one of the few artists that could own a soundtrack, like she did with one single years prior on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. Other highlights from her on the soundtrack include the DMX featured "Come Back In One Piece" and the Missy penned "Are You Feelin' Me". Despite only having 4 songs on the soundtrack, Aaliyah's presence is the strongest and that carries an otherwise lackluster soundtrack to respectable heights and platinum status.

4. I Care 4 U (2002)


-So, the main posthumous release from Aaliyah gets a mention from us, but honestly, it is a glorified greatest hits album that featured a few newer songs. That's the thing about an album like this. Aaliyah and her music were special, but when you have limited songs available for usage, but a marketable name, things like this occur. Sure, Aaliyah's fans loved the idea of some new music from the songstress who left us too early, but how does this album hold up in terms of overall appeal and quality? Well, that's the thing. I Care 4 U is a great sendoff in terms of her career, but the new songs aren't extremely special, despite being pretty good. There are a few miscues included here, but they are slightly blocked out by the greatness of the title track (which was originally on her self titled album), "Miss You", and the very underrated single that featured Tank, "Come Over". I actually wish they would have just found a few more recordings to use of her that were new because as a standalone album, this had potential. Regardless, I Care 4 U was a decent listen that gave you a little more of Aaliyah and her music. This is here instead of the Ultimate Aaliyah greatest hits collection because at least this album has a number of new songs (new meaning previously unheard up until that point), everything on that collection was old or previously released. I Care 4 U is the "worst" Aaliyah album by far, but one suspects that if she was here to actually see the vision, this could have been THAT much better.

3. Age Ain't Nothing But A Number (1994)


-I think the singles are what make people love this album so much and that's fine. Upon revisiting this project myself, I found it to be promising, without reaching any of the full potential it really had. Well, maybe I shouldn't say that. Age Ain't Nothing But A Number reaches some of the potential that Aaliyah had, but I fully believe she was better off with Timbaland and Missy than she was with R. Kelly. Though R. Kelly would craft some gems for her and this album showcased some of the chemistry they had, everything about that union still is unsettling for a number of reasons. For one, it is slightly tough to fully enjoy the album knowing some of the songs were most likely about their love, and the title track is definitely a song that hints at that in the first place. The positive on this album is that Aaliyah brings the perfect vocals and utilizes her voice to bring most of the listeners in. That coupled with the New Jack Swing sound production does bring us standout songs such as the hit single "Back and Forth", the smooth title track, "The Thing I Like", and her version of "At Your Best (You Are Love)" of course. Still, there are moments on this album that leave you wishing Aaliyah expanded and worked with someone else other than R. Kelly, but all in all, this was a very solid album. Classic? Not necessarily, but it was an excellent introduction for the young songstress.

2. Aaliyah (2001)


-So, this was nearly my pick for no. 1 on this rating list, but honestly, I think there are one or two songs on this album that stops it from reaching that classic level. Aaliyah is all grown up and much more mature it seems on this album, as she finds herself with topics and lyrics that are more sultry and alluring than before. The production was not mostly handled by Timbaland this time, so it allowed her to spread her wings just a little bit from an artist's perspective and as a result, this is a near classic album. She was no longer the same girl that gave us Age Ain't Nothing But A Number or even One In A Million, she had transitioned into a more confident and willing artist, and that shines through here. There are a few songs that don't standout to me on the album, but for the most part, it flows very well, as highlights include the classic and slightly surprising "Rock The Boat", the booming "We Need A Resolution", the catchy "More Than A Woman", "Read Between The Lines", "What If", and "I Can Be". Aaliyah was growing as an artist and perhaps as a person, and it is unfortunate that this was the last we would hear of her before her passing. One can only imagine what she might have had in store next, but regardless, this self titled album is a great listen, even 17 years later.

1. One In A Million (1996)


-Her best work hands down. I don't think Aaliyah knew what she had with this album and I could probably guess the same for Timbaland and Missy, who were the real MVPs of this project. Aaliyah had the voice, Missy had the songs, and Timbaland had the production. Together, they formed a trio that honestly couldn't be touched during this time period and everything they cranked out seemed to either be a hit or a classic. For Aaliyah, working with various producers would give her a nice twist in sound, but the best work comes from Timbaland, as he seemed to know exactly what sounds to give her to make her music even better. Timbaland is responsible for about 60% of this album's production and he cultivated the direction of the album from that perspective. Of course, this album has the essential Aaliyah cover song, as she puts a spin on the legendary Marvin song "Got To Give It Up", and then she takes another Isley Brothers classic with her version of "Choosey Lover". While those are enjoyable, it is on songs like "Hot Like Fire", the title track, "4 a Page Letter", "If Your Girl Only Knew", "Never Comin' Back", and a few others where she shines the most. The album isn't flawless necessarily, but it is extremely close and it gets the label of a classic every time. Surprisingly, One In A Million debuted to mixed reviews from critics, but that was mostly because the album was ahead of its time in terms of sound, but commercially it would do very well, earning triple platinum status and selling 8 million copies worldwide. Aaliyah's legacy still lives on today, but the fact remains, album wise, the biggest piece of that legacy is One In A Million.

-True

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