What were you doing when you were fifteen? I was busy sewing rolled up socks into my bra and spending hours carefully selecting song lyrics to put as my MSN screen name. What was Aaliyah doing at fifteen? Oh nothing, JUST BEING THE COOLEST R&B SONGSTRESS EVER. Without slutting it up like Britney or pretending to be a soccer mom and a tween at the same time like JoJo, she burst onto the music scene with icy cold debut single "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number" and never looked back.
Sadly, it's her untimely death that has cemented her place in music history, her legacy a weird stasis of squash-faced memorial graffiti and clip art peppered video montages. But here's why, if she were slow grinding in baggy pants today, she'd still be killing it.
THAT TIME SHE SANG "FUNNY VALENTINE" WHEN SHE WAS A KID LIKE IT WAS NBD
Most kids that appeared on Star Search ended up singing "my booooy lollipop" while they had Vaseline smeared on their smiles. But a ten-year old Aaliyah went on and sang one of the most maudlin love songs of all time. Weirdly, her slightly terrifying, straight-faced rendition of "Funny Valentine" didn't get her the winning spot.
THAT TIME SHE HAD A CRAZY VOCAL RANGE BUT DIDN'T HAVE TO FUCKING SHOUT
Hey, I love a semi-hysterical scream sing to "Don't Let Go" as much as the next unhinged R&B fan, but Aaliyah's softly softly approach has proved inimitable. In fact, the only drawback to her laid back vocal style is the way it's used as a reference point by shitty pretenders to her crown to justify their complete lack of lungs. Welp, I'M SORRY WORLD but chances are if you're not in the great Aaliyah, Brandy and Monica triptych, the toneless sex whispering you do in the studio is you not being able to sing.
THE TIME SHE NICKED THIS SYRIAN TRACK
Death was always going to make her eponymous third album lauded by default. So it's pretty convenient that it was her most accomplished body of work anyway. Like, fuck the Timbaland/ Timberlake bromance, Aaliyah caught Timbaland at his most adventurous and let everyone else have the scraps. "We Need A Resolution" saw 'Liyah going unusually batshit with the vocal acrobatics and Timbaland probably slamming the caffeine tablets to spend fifty hours in the studio making loops from his own grunts and hyperventilations. But the cherry on top was Timbo sampling the strings from this absolute BANGER from Syria, "Alouli Ansa", by Mayada EL Hennawy. It just melts my brain that this is the same Timbaland who made 'The Way I Are".
THE TIME SHE MANAGED TO MAKE DAMON DASH A NICE HUMAN BEING
Damon Dash is a money squandering dick and the only time he's been likeable in his life was when he was basking in the reflected glory of this angel.
AND THE TIME SHE MADE DMX LOOK LIKE A VIABLE HUSBAND OPTION
Hello, adorable! Is there anything more attractive than DMX pre-prison, crack addiction, dog torturing, open homophobia and singing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" while high? NO THERE IS NOT.
It's the seamless coupling of the rough with the smooth that makes "Back In One Piece" a ride-or-die bitch anthem. It doesn't even need any lyrics about gunning someone down or smuggling six condoms stuffed with cocaine across the Mexican border for your man.
THAT TIME SHE HAD VARIED AS FUCK TASTE IN MUSIC
Not only did a Aaliyah shout out the UK garage scene before it was even a thing, she also expressed a love for Nine Inch Nails. Seriously. In fact, Trent Reznor was in collaboration talks with her shortly before her death :(
EVERY TIME SHE THREW SHADE GRACEFULLY
"If Your Girl Only Knew" was an excellent "welp, you're a complete crap-muncher but I'm going to let you fuck your own life up rather than keying your car" song. Like, with Aaliyah you'd probably never fear for your physical well-being, but if you crossed her one times too many she'd cut you down so expertly you'd immediately need to cry in the shower fully clothed.
EVERY TIME SHE DRESSED LIKE A BOY
Finding out Aaliyah wore trousers to her prom because YOLO, kind of makes me wish I'd stood my ground and hadn't panic bought that snakeskin tube dress which I spent the entire duration of my school leavers' in tears wearing. Sure, TLC et al were already raiding the mens' section, but there was something about Aaliyah juxtaposing her honeyed falsetto with wearing XXXXXL jeans and Timberlands that made her about a jillion times cooler than she was already. Seriously, post a generic shot from her Tommy Hilfiger campaign on Tumblr and see how many immediate reblogs it gets.
THE TIME SHE SURVIVED R KELLY
What in the name of sweet kittens was that about? Prior to an ultra creepy R. Kelly's arrest for underage pornography, the marriage of a then fifteen year old Aaliyah and twenty seven year old Kelly was kind of romantic in a child bride elopement way. That said, Kelly can at least be credited for launching her career, masterminding tracks like "Back & Forth", "Down With The Clique" and, ummmm, "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number". It is a number in a court of law though, Kellz.
THAT TIME SHE WAS MATES WITH EVERYONE EVER
Like, literally mates with everyone. Though only twenty two when she died, Aaliyah could count Missy, Lil Kim, Mary J, Ginuwine, Janet Jackson, Jay Z etc x infinity as both buddies and collaborators. She was like the super popular girl at school that everyone knew because they were just nice, not because they had massive jugs and would threaten to beat you up in the changing rooms.
Case in point, Aaliyah hanging out with Junior M.A.F.I.A on "I Need You Tonight" without ending up in a blood-drawing cat fight with Lil Kim.
THE TIME SHE WAS THERE FIRST
Sorry guys. STAY MAD.
Follow Jo on Twitter @FUERTESKNIGHT
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