Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
To commemorate the 16th anniversary of the untimely passing of R&B’s princess Aaliyah, we’ll salute her last official LP – the eponymous project ‘Aaliyah.’
Despite seeing her second effort, 1996’s ‘One In a Million’ (the album), reach multiplatinum success thanks to its housed hits ‘One In a Million’ (the song), ‘Hot Like Fire,’ and the set’s biggest single – the piercing, Diane Warren-penned ballad ‘The One I Gave My Heart To’ – R&B songstress Aaliyah Dana Houghton, better known mononymously, and her Blackground Records team seemed in no rush to release a follow-up. In fact, the only major chart entries she saw in the four years that followed ‘Million’ (the album), albeit the biggest successes of her career at that point, were soundtrack placements (i.e. the Academy Award-nominated ‘Journey to the Past,’ ‘Are You That Somebody,’ ‘I Don’t Wanna,’ and ‘Try Again’) and the occasional feature. The chart triumphs of the aforementioned collectively served notice to Blackground that the buying public was absolutely here for what the songstress – affectionately nicknamed ‘Baby Girl’ – was serving and, as a result, were more than ready for her next full body of work.
Calling on her trusted team of producers, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, alongside songwriters and then up-and-comers Static Major, Bud’da, Keybeats, J. Dub, and more, Aaliyah – the project’s executive producer – was put in the driver’s seat for the first time in her career. The move led to the assembled team crafting of a collection of progressive, alternative R&B tracks that would not only demonstrate the singer’s impressive vocal and sonic maturity, but also showcase personal and artistic growth as content from the album – her first as an adult – touched on topics unexplored in her previous work (i.e. domestic violence). Her most personal album to date, the opus was christened a self-titled work.
Released July 2001, ‘Aaliyah’ produced three official singles: ‘We Need A Resolution,’ ‘More Than a Woman,’ ‘and ‘Rock the Boat,’ the latter’s music video being her last ever as she was tragically killed in a plane crash departing from its set.
‘We Need A Resolution’
Billboard Hot 100 Chart Peak: #59
‘More Than a Woman’
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: #25
‘Rock the Boat’
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: #14
Note: ‘Aaliyah’ is her only album [to date] that did not yield a top 10 single on the Hot 100.
Debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 in summer 2001, the album would eventually rebound in sales after news of her untimely death and peak at #1 [her only chart-topper on that tally to date]. Overall, it currently sits just shy of the 3x platinum mark in U.S. sales.
Those who do not consider themselves “Aaliyah fans” often poorly and unfortunately misjudge the “hype” around the singer’s final project as a result of her death. From a commercial perspective, this is arguably true. Yet, the judgment is overall misguided because on the critical front – from fans and industry insiders alike – the project was hailed as one of R&B’s most progressive offerings while she was alive. A void, arguably, unfilled authentically since the singer’s very own ‘One In a Million’ project years prior.
Combining the rhythmic genre with elements of rock (‘What If,’ ‘More Than a Woman’), hip hop (‘Loose Rap,’ ‘It’s Whatever’), Latin (‘Read Between the Lines’), soul (‘I Care 4 U’), pop (‘I Refuse’), island-inspired offerings (‘Rock the Boat’), and more, the masterful fusion of sounds listed aboard ‘Aaliyah’ were not as easily categorized as those of her competitors – a feat that made the album that much more of a gem.
As we salute the memory of Baby Girl and press play on our jam ‘Extra Smooth,’ look below to tell us: