After the sheer fuckery that was the Aaliyah “biopic” on Lifetime, we here are Kel & Mel thought that it was only right that we present what was truly great about Babygirl and has touched artists like Drake, Rochelle Jordan, and Tinashe alike; the music.
Back & Forth – Aaliyah’s first single. The sound definitely has the early R. Kelly feeling and people were feeling it from the minute it pumped through their speakers. The fact that the video for this showed a young girl in baggy dips and tomboy swag singing in an angelic voice served as a major indication as to where she was headed both stylistically and musically.
At Your Best (You Are Love) [Gangstar Child Remix] – While most people remember the album version of this track that mirrored the Isley Brothers original, the limited release video featured this version. Also featuring that early R. Kelly sound, it gave the track a grittier sound than the original, which sounded more heavenly.
One In A Million – After a two year haitus, Aaliyah reappeared with an all new sound courtesy of producers Missy and Timbaland. While this might sound like just a run of the mill urban track now, it was something that no one had ever heard before at the time. It was showcased a new Aaliyah, in both lyrics and style. She still had her jazz personality and tomboy look but she tapered it with more vulnerability and femininity.
4 Page Letter – At the time this track came out, people wondered if it was about a certain someone in the past or a new man in her life. Either way, this track about writing a love letter to someone special reached across age divides and made Aaliyah a lot of new fans.
Hot Like Fire (Timbaland’s Groove Mix) – Again, this version of the track was featured in the video and on the rare promotional single, but not on the album. More up-tempo than the original, this track about burning passion did live up to its name.
Are You That Somebody – Featured on The Doctor Dolittle soundtrack, this was the breakout single of 1998. While the soundtrack itself boasted tracks from Ginuwine, Changing Faces, Montel Jordan, and The 69 Boyz; it was this track that attracted the most attention. Paired with a video that featured Aaliyah showcasing some of her best dance moves to date, it was hard to go anywhere and not hear this playing.
I Don’t Wanna – Originally featured on the Friday After Next soundtrack, this track didn’t really get a lot of attention until it was featured on the Romeo Must Die soundtrack later in the same year. If you take a listen to Aaliyah’s vocals, you will hear something very familiar in them–the sing-songy rap style that Drake uses on his less R&B singles. Again, fairly run of the mill now, it was new thing when she released this song.
Try Again – The first single from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, this featured an Aaliyah that was fully embracing her womanhood. 21-years-old and dating Roc-A-Fella co-founder Damon Dash and starring in the movie from which this was taken, this looked to be a new era in both life an music for Aaliyah.
Come Back In One Piece – (Yes, this is the edited version from the soundtrack; sorry.) Also from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, this DMX-assisted track had a little something for everyone. DMX’s growling rhymes, check. Aaliyah’s sweet vocals, check. A nice beat that was both radio and club friendly, check.
Rock The Boat – The last single released by Aaliyah while she was alive; she died in a plane crash returning from the video shoot. Showcasing her burgeoning sexuality in a way that stayed true to her toned-down sexy style, she sang about sex in a way that didn’t make parents need to turn the dial when the song came on.