Today marks the eighth anniversary of singer Aaliyah’s death. She would have been 30, but age ain’t nothing but a number. Aaliyah was and will always be timeless. She was the rare bird: beautiful, a genuine inside and out, and talented in several disciplines. Not since Diana Ross, who also hailed from Detroit, Michigan, have we seen a musical siren excel at acting, music and choreography.
Hitting the scene in 1994, Aaliyah Dana Haughton’s debut album sold 2 million copies in the United States, spawning the infectious single “Back and Forth” and the Isley Brothers cover “At Your Best.” R. Kelly, who was fast becoming a music legend, produced the album, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. She was 14.
Soon she left Jive Records and signed to Atlantic, under the tutelage of Missy Elliott and super producer Timbaland. Under such guidance, Aaliyah came into her own. Her videos became choreography clinics, her look grew mature yet retain a youthful appeal.
Her sound wasn’t retro, she wasn’t soul; Aaliyah was all-new. The music world hadn’t seen the likes of her before, with Timbaland’s techno-backed beats her music was trippy, sonically knocking, and untraditional. She released “One in a Million,” which sold over 10 million copies, and turned her into a bonafide rock star overseas. But then the big screen beckoned: She starred in “Romeo Must Die” in 2000, and filmed “Queen of the Damned” shortly after. Her plum role, though, the one that would make her a Hollywood darling, was to be “The Matrix,” where she would play “Zee.” But first, the music called. Her third album “Aaliyah” was a Timbaland fest of raw beats over her high-pitched sighs. The albums hot single? “Rock the Boat.”
The video, filmed by Hype Williams, was shot in the Bahamas. As the crew loaded their plane and took off to return to the United States, the plane crashed before even achieving maximum lift. It was August 25, 2001. Aaliyah was dead.
There were several grievances associated with the fatal flight, including an investigation that revealed that the pilot was not licensed to fly the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report that said stated “the airplane was seen lifting off the runway, and then nose down, impacting in a marsh on the south side of the departure end of runway.”
While Aaliyah may be gone she lives on in her music, videos and in the hearts of her fans. A feature-length biopic, featuring Canadian singer Keisha Chante as Aaliyah, is supposed to be in production this year.
Clutchettes and gents – what’s your favorite song or memory of Aaliyah?