There's Something About Aaliyah


There's something about her. To this day, even 10 years after her passing on August 25, 2001, Aaliyah draws you in. Her allure lies upon the medley of her velvety vocals and her effortless transition from vulnerability to sensuality and back again. We still fawn over each piece of Aaliyah's legacy -- her sound, her style, the beauty in her subtleties. We get lost in daydream of the icon she was becoming. We compare teenage memories of scribing a "4 Page Letter" or adding in an extra step when performing "Are You That Somebody?" in the confinements of our '90s music-poster draped bedroom.

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I'd push the couches against the walls of my living room to perform the dance number in "Try Again," to the best of my limited ability. Mama Ramirez looked at me crazy. She never quite understood why her 15-year-old daughter was covering her eye with a thick strand of her wavy hair and wearing baggy cargo pants although only 110 lbs.

Aaliyah emerged into womanhood before our eyes, coming into the scene at 14 years old when recording "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number." Still there was always an aura of mystique that spun around Aaliyah and left us wanting more; more of what she gave and what was hiding behind her coquettish, contagious smile. Her style embodied a confident "girl from around the way," which was admired by both male and female. Her silky voice, interchangeably singing seductively or longingly, pulled on our emotions. The honesty and confidence in the songs that Aaliyah smoothly sang was refreshing -- she was the woman strong enough to admit and adhere to the woes of love ("4 Page Letter") and the needs of a lover ("More Than a Woman").

When we speak of Aaliyah, our tense tends to slant towards the future, not just staying in the present. We envision Aaliyah's growth exceeding beyond the genre of R&B and Hip-Hop, for she was already dipping her toes in a range of soundscapes. When speaking to Damon Dash on his relationship with Aaliyah, he said that he never boxed Aaliyah into one box, and definitely not into the box of R&B. "Her aspirations were beyond ... any particular format. I felt like she was going to make a bigger kind of music, almost create her own genre, like a woman Frank Sinatra. She was really making it sound like nothing else that was out."

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Aaliyah's legacy lives on because we admire who she was and who she could have been. We relate Aaliyah to the us now and the us then, and will continue to do so.