"We're not remembering your death. We're celebrating your life."- Jay-Z
When you think of artists that were never really able to fulfill their true potential, you’d perhaps think of a Christopher Wallace, Tupac Shakur, Christopher Rios, or if you’re a fan of television such as myself, even Merlin Santana. However, one name that will echo in our mind for many years to come is undoubtedly the lovely Aaliyah.
At a mere fourteen years of age, Aaliyah gave us her debut album ‘Age Ain't Nothing but A Number.’ The album works as a great blueprint for the "teen sensations" of today. It was blessed with phenomenal songs such as "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best." Then in 1996, she gave us the superb follow up "One In A Million." A CD that not only marked her growth, but also her maturity. While some critics will say that Timbaland production was the staple that held this CD together, it is upon further listening that one realizes that her heartfelt vocals played a huge part as well.
After 1996, the only thing that kept her name afloat was multiple soundtrack smash hits, (i.e. 'Are You That Somebody,' 'Try Again') and her on screen debut, "Romeo Must Die." Despite that, we waited nearly five years for her third full length, simply titled "Aaliyah".
This album starts off with the Timbaland produced lead single "We Need A Resolution." When I first heard this single, I knew that I would be in for something special. The instrumentation sounds like a darkly orchestrated melody. Its ‘stutter step’ bassline that Timbaland made famous works great whether you are in the club or just driving along the road. However, those who were fans of Aaliyah releases because of the Timbaland production may feel a little cheated on this release as Tim only produces three of 15 tracks. Instead, Aaliyah uses newcomers Rapture, Bud’da, J. Dub, and Static of the AWOL R&B group Playa. While their production is a solid attempt, by the fifteenth track, you find yourself wishing that Aaliyah stuck with the formula that made her who she was.
The second single from the album was the posthumous "Rock the Boat". This single is definitely one that will gather mixed emotion. While this song is nowhere near the best on the CD, the timing that it was released definitely plucks an emotional chord that cannot help one but to just sit back, reflect and enjoy the ride. The third single from the album was ‘More than A Woman’. Definitely one of the standout tracks on the album. This Timbaland produced song doesn’t disappoint. Aaliyah, like the title suggests is explaining to her man the length that she is willing to go for her man. Lyrics such as "Constant pressures, no scales could measure, secret pleasures keep on getting better" are subliminal hints of the growth that Aaliyah underwent.
This single definitely fills any voids left in the average fan after hearing ‘Rock the Boat’. However, the definite highlight of the CD is "I Care 4 U". It is a slow song, also produced by Timbaland. It is a song that expresses Aaliyah’s heartfelt feelings. This track’s rich vocals and piano backdrop also contribute to making the song the classic is truly is.
Other tracks which are indicative o of Aaliyah’s new musical direction are "I Can Be," and "What If."
Both tracks are heavily rock influenced, and they provide a balance to the vintage Aaliyah that we hear for a portion of the CD. They are loaded with energy, and you can hear hints of aggressiveness in Aaliyah’s voice that one who is accustomed to her smooth, timidly sweet vocals wouldn’t expect.
It would be unfair to the listener if I didn’t mention tracks that could’ve easily been left on the cutting room floor. Tracks like "Loose Rap" and "Never No More" (AKA 'I Care 4 U Part II') and "U Got Nerve." While they're not terrible tracks, they tend to make one head to the skip button and interfere with the quality fluency of the album. The hidden track "Messed Up", simply put, should’ve remained hidden. She sings at a lightning fast pace that is borderline non-understandable, but then she slows it down at the chorus. When this track follows "What If," all I was thinking of was "What if she would’ve ended it here."
All in all, this compilation was an overall solid release. While not the final CD that I would’ve wanted, unforeseen circumstance tends to be rather unsympathetic with the way we want things to be. Aaliyah was a phenomenal musician whose life and career ended way before their time. I find this CD hard to listen to at times, but at the same time I thoroughly enjoying listening because it reminds me of Aaliyah doing what she did best. Capturing the heart of the listener, and tapping your feet at the same time. I Miss You Aaliyah. R.I.P.