10 Essential Aaliyah Songs

Aaliyah

Ten years ago today, music lost an angel when Aaliyah Dana Haughton was killed in an airplane crash en route from the Bahamas to Florida. After appearing in concerts with Gladys Knight at age 11, the R&B songstress signed to her uncle’s Blackground Records, who released the then 15-year-old’s debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, in 1994. Written by mentor R. Kelly, the album’s mix of traditional R&B and New Jack Swing helped Aaliyah sell more than 3 million albums and make her an instant star.

1996’s One in a Million and 2001’s Aaliyah would follow, but despite leaving behind a scant catalog, the singer’s immutable grace and soulful vocals made her one of R&B’s most respected artists. While we’ll never know Aaliyah’s full potential, Rap-Up.com celebrates her legacy with 10 classic songs.

“At Your Best (You Are Love)” (1994)

The second single from Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number keeps the laidback tone of the original Isley Brothers’ 1976 soul classic. The song’s minimal instrumentation is an effective early showcase of Aaliyah’s voice, which would later be sampled by Drake and Young Jeezy on 2010’s “Unforgettable.”

“Back & Forth” (1994)

Age‘s lead single hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the first of five top 10 hits for Aaliyah. With its hip-hop beat and buoyant, bouncy vibe, the jam, penned by R. Kelly, exemplified the New Jack Swing influence that would define much of the singer’s debut album.

“If Your Girl Only Knew” (1996)

With 1996’s One in a Million, a then-17-year-old Aaliyah diversified her production squad—Timbaland and Missy Elliott co-wrote and produced half the album—and delivered a bolder, more mature sound. Produced by Timbaland, “If Your Girl Only Knew” was a tribute to Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew” and spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart.

“One in a Million” (1996)

The sultry ballad remains one of the singer’s signature tracks, with Timbaland’s jagged drums anchoring Baby Girl’s lush vocals. Jay-Z would go on to sample the singer for In My Lifetime, Vol. 1′s “A Million and One Questions,” with The-Dream releasing a polarizing cover of the track in 2010.

“4 Page Letter” (1997)

Written by Timbaland and Elliott (the latter providing background vocals), the fourth single from Million is a heartfelt ballad of anticipation and shyness. The iconic video, set in a forest and ending with the singer dancing in a ring of fire, remains a fan favorite.

“Are You That Somebody?” (1998)

Timbaland’s skittering drums and ingenious samples helped define late ’90s R&B, and on this song from the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack, the producer flips a baby’s coo from Prince’s “Delirious” into one of the biggest tracks of the decade. Co-written by Static Major, “Somebody” saw Aaliyah deftly bending her voice to match the idiosyncratic beat and creating a modern classic.

“Come Back in One Piece” feat. DMX (2000)

Producer Irv Gotti samples Parliament’s “Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk” for this single from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack. With verses from a barking DMX, the gritty duet’s atypical beat didn’t move much on the charts, yet showed that Aaliyah could hang with the boys while remaining cool with the girls.

“Try Again” (2000)

Written by Static Major and Timbaland, “Try Again,” Aaliyah’s biggest commercial hit, earned her two MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Released as the lead single from the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, the song’s squelchy synths, breathy vocals, and self-affirming message ended up on numerous critics’ best-of-the-year lists.

“Rock the Boat” (2001)

Originally deemed too explicit for the traditionally chaste singer, the second single off 2001’s Aaliyah earned Baby Girl her third Grammy nomination. After filming the Hype Williams-directed video for “Rock the Boat” in the Bahamas, Aaliyah would board the plane that crashed seconds after takeoff, killing herself and eight others.

“Miss You” (2002)

This soft-spoken track, released posthumously on the compilation I Care 4 U, would later double as hip-hop and R&B’s musical tribute to the late singer. The video featured an earnest intro by DMX and cameos from famous friends including Missy Elliott, Jamie Foxx, Lil’ Kim, and Toni Braxton.

–Jason Newman



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47 Comments

  1. Kayla

    I love all of these songs! R.I.P. Aaliyah. Your music will live on forever. I miss her so much.

    [Reply]

  2. TheTruthWillShutYouUp

    Man i miss Aaliyah she was a trend setter this music came out in the 90s and early 00 and you cant tell me that you still cant play her songs

    [Reply]

  3. EyFresh

    Baby Girl

    [Reply]

  4. CITY

    AALIYAH/BABYGIRL

    [Reply]

  5. destiny

    thought more than a woman should be there instead of back in one piece but whatevs…aaliyah was truly an angel and will ALWAYS BE missed… like kendrick lamar said in “blow my high”, rip aaliyah, rip

    [Reply]

  6. NONO

    R.I.P My Baby Girl, I love you Aaliyah!

    [Reply]

  7. TheVigilantetv » Blog Archive » Remembering Aaliyah – Hollywood.com

    [...] Today: What Fans SayHollywood ReporterRemembering Aaliyah — 10 years laterSan Antonio Express10 Essential Aaliyah SongsRap-Up.comPopCrush -Desi Hits! -MLive.comall 60 news [...]

  8. Chet

    Aaliyah fan since “Back and Forth” dropped back in ‘94!!! I’m 26yo now and none of these new age chicks will ever have anything on Aaliyah. EVER. Her style, grace, and poise was a throwback to what it truly meant to be Old Hollywood, in the best sense possible. Her influence is everywhere from singers to rappers to dancers and young black actresses. 10 years later we her still talk about her because yes, she was that fuckin major. You little kids don’t even know the power of Aaliyah. She was taking over, and if still here, she would be running this shit. TRUST. It still pains me 10 years later that we were robbed of what was to come. I was excited. Damn shame. I love you Baby Girl.

    [Reply]

    kk Reply:

    @Chet, yup i feel u im 17 and aaliyah was the only one wroth me listen to shes def the best there every was

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  9. jorge

    i miss you baby girl!
    always in my mind!

    REST IN PEACE!

    [Reply]

  10. Leonie

    I love and miss her so much.

    Rest in paradise Aaliyah, always my favourite.

    [Reply]

  11. mon

    rip babygirl ur still my favorite….look at all these hits i love u AALIYAH!

    [Reply]

  12. jjmd

    will always be alive in my heart..your essence never go..i love you /.\

    [Reply]

  13. Kyle

    I seriously can’t believe it’s been 10 years since she passed away. I still remember exactly where I was when I found out about it. She was such a great R&B artist; I love all her albums. To this day, “Aaliyah” is still my favorite album of all time. Such a great piece of work-”Rock The Boat,” “Loose Rap” and “Those Were The Days” were amazing cuts. I just listened to “If Your Girl Only Knew” this morning when I woke up. LOVE THAT SONG.

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  14. earnestine dowdell

    i missed u baby girl REST IN PEACE

    [Reply]

  15. BLAZE

    WOW!Can’t believe its been 10yrs God rest her soul she was an still remains my idol I miss her so much the voice of an Angel you are loved BabyGirl!

    [Reply]

  16. AAA

    Aaliyah will always be remembered….rip

    [Reply]

  17. TEAM WORLD

    She will be missed

    [Reply]

  18. Songstress

    Geeezzzz this is making me cry just looking at all of this !

    [Reply]

  19. rick

    WHERE IS WE NEED A RESOLUTION!!!?? =O

    R.i.p Aaliyah..you will definitely remain missed and loved =.(

    [Reply]

  20. V

    AALIYAH ♥ the brightest star on heaven is your spirit shining down on all of us. we will never forget nor will we ever let your legacy be forgotten. 10 years later and you’re still touching peoples heart, no matter age and race. your music is still classic & your sweet voice still gives me the shivers. you were an amazing person and had a great heart, if not one of the greatest hearts that walked this planet. you inspired me and still do, always will. ♥

    [Reply]

  21. heart

    R.I.P

    [Reply]

  22. SE7ENINJAZ

    Funny thing is today I found both her “One In A Million” & “Aaliyah” albums at the store. I forgot she died today. She made timeless music. R.I.P. Aaliyah.

    [Reply]

  23. YUNG Reezy

    ROCK THE BOAT IS THE BEST AALAYIAH SONG IVE EVER HEARD AND THE MUSIC VIDEO IS THE BEST IVE EVER SEEN. at the end of the rock the boat video, it’s looks like she going up to heaven. man i love and miss her beautiful ass.

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  24. maya

    My idol, my fave, ILH! “Never No More” is an under rated song along w| “A Girl Like You” RIP babygirl

    [Reply]

  25. Joyams

    More than a woman????

    [Reply]

  26. Coleworld

    I love all of these songs. Aaliyah was so ahead of her time and just a beautiful person inside and out. Can’t believe its been 10 years. RIP Aaliyah.

    [Reply]

    Stacy Reply:

    @Coleworld, I agree she def was ahead of her time.

    [Reply]

  27. Orlando

    R.I.P. AALIYAH WE ALL MISS YOU & LOVE YOU SO MUCH STILL TIL THIS DAY THAT WE WILL ALWAYS KEEP YOU ALIVE IN OUR HEARTS WITH THE LOVELY MUSIC THAT YOU HAD MADE US BECOME WITH YOUR SWEET BLESSINGS.
    January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001 – August 25, 2011 10 YEARS NOW HAS PAST
    WITHOUT AALIYAH & R.I.P. TO HER FRIENDS THAT WERE WITH HER THAT PAST

    [Reply]

  28. celebrity-7

    She was one in a million much love u-r miss.

    [Reply]

  29. fizzle

    10 yrs later and she still instills a calm trance when she fills my ears. Continue to R.I.P. Aaliyah, you will always be “living a dream” whether you’re here or not. I Love you & I Miss you ♥

    [Reply]

  30. yeAHyeahYeah

    that day 10 years ago was like the shock of the century. It seemed like she was soaring so high and was out & about doing promo everywhere. She kept soaring straight up to the heavens. RIP Aaliyah /.\ ur one in a million.

    [Reply]

  31. Stacy

    She will always be one in a million to me.She can’t be replace or duplicated. She was a trendsetter in every right. She left a timeless legacy and that’s what every artist should aim for while present on earth. I love you Aaliyah RIP. – A longtime fan

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  32. @SynceR3

    Man I miss her!!!!

    [Reply]

  33. Real Issh

    R.I.P. </3 <3

    [Reply]

  34. jillclubb

    She was clear-headed, driven toward both success and happiness in life, passionate, fun, intelligent, sweet, and an overall beautiful spirit that left this earth far too young.

    [Reply]

  35. Key

    Miss u baby girl

    [Reply]

  36. ponyo

    Gone but not forgotten

    [Reply]

  37. rnb

    WE NEED A RESOLUTION and MORE THAN A WOMAN is not here?? come on!!

    btw she was always smilling and she looks alwqys positive
    now we have rihana who knows one thing very well : touch is ass and looks prestentious while aaliyah had every thing and was simple
    i was too little to live that era

    now we just have Ciara who is as talented and as smiling as Aaliyah

    [Reply]

    Souraya Reply:

    @rnb, YOU have Ciara. lol

    [Reply]

  38. MusicKING12

    I miss Aaliyah soooo much!!! I was crushed when I heard she had died, she’s still my all-time favorite female R&B singer, she’s never be replaced.

    [Reply]

  39. GOD IS GoooooD!

    I remember her first single “AGE AINT NOTHING BUT A NUMBER” I knew then that she was something special. R.I.P.

    [Reply]

  40. CAmmetta

    AAliyah girl you are gone but not forgotten R.I.P we love you

    [Reply]

  41. ateffrag

    وحشتنى جدا

    [Reply]

  42. Nina

    Wow i still cant beleive shes gone her beautiful music is very touching everytime i listen to it i want to cry because it so beautiful jusst like her no one can ever reach the level she was at when she shockingly passed i love and miss her so much she will never be forgotten exspecially by billions of people exspecially me

    [Reply]

  43. Nina

    I love you aaliyah
    Always and forever
    One love

    [Reply]

  44. MissYa

    A trendsetter, stylish yet ‘connectable’.
    This type of personality is special, the loss on her early age is just unbearable.

    Top songs and first class acting, only god knows what we miss out on.

    R.I.P. Aaliyah, there’s no replacing the black hole the black hole you left . . .

    LOVE, always

    [Reply]

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